Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pentagon Manhunters: America's New Murder, Inc.?

When CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed that for eight years the Agency ran a secret program to hunt down and kill top leaders of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets known as al-Qaeda, it set off a political firestorm.

While congressional Democrats and Republicans diverted the public's attention with claims and counterclaims whether or not the Company had "misled" Congress by not disclosing the program's existence, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported months earlier that former Vice President Richard Cheney had stood up an "executive assassination ring."

According to Hersh, that fully-operational program was run, not by the CIA, but by the Pentagon's secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a subunit attached to United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). During a "Great Conversations" event last March at the University of Minnesota, Hersh told the audience:

"Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.

"Under President Bush’s authority, they've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That's been going on, in the name of all of us." (Eric Black, "Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh describes 'executive assassination ring',", March 11, 2009)

Old news right? Well, not entirely.

Wired investigative reporter Noah Shachtman revealed November 3, that a report published by the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), the "educational component" of USSOCOM based at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, proposed creating a specialized "manhunting" unit with a global reach.

Shachtman writes that its author argues that the CIA "didn't go far enough. Instead, it suggests the American government should set up something like a 'National Manhunting Agency' to go after jihadists, drug dealers, pirates and other enemies of the state."

While not an "official" report, the fact that the monograph, Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare, was written by retired Air Force Lt. Colonel George A. Crawford and published by JSOU, lends added weight to arguments by critics that the United States Government has "gone rogue" and is preparing a planet-wide Operation Condor network to capture or kill imperialism's enemies.

Currently a senior director for Archimedes Global, Inc., Crawford boasts a résumé that includes "operational assignments with special operations and special activities, intelligence collection and analysis, information operations and psychological operations."

The shadowy firm, while short on information describing what it actually does, like many newly-minted intelligence and security outfits in Washington, is chock-a-block with retired spooks and special forces operators cashing-in on the tsunami of public funds fueling the "War on Terror."

According to their web site the company offer services such as "Operations and Research" from "experienced, highly trained people" who possess "unmatched expertise across a number of industries and focus areas."

In the realm of Technology, Archimedes specializes in "Cryptanalysis and Applied Cryptography." Hint, hint, this is what the National Security Agency does when it isn't spying on the American people and building an exploitable database on dissidents destined for "special handling" should the need arise.

The firm's "Information and Risk" brief claims they will solve "the most difficult communication and risk problems by seeing over the horizon with a blend of art and science." And with focus areas that include "strategic communications, media analysis and support, crisis communications, and risk and vulnerability assessment and mitigation," it doesn't take a rocket scientist to infer that those well-schooled in the dark art of psychological operations (PSYOPS) would find a friendly home at Archimedes!

With some 25-years experience "as a foreign area officer specializing in Eastern Europe and Central Asia," including a stint "as acting Air and Defense Attaché to Kyrgyzstan," Crawford brings an interesting skill-set to the table.

A trained interrogator "selected by the commander of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) as an inspector for the Secretary of Defense Interrogation Special Focus Team," one shudders to contemplate what his duties entailed in that capacity.

As the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported in 2004 in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, with Special Operations Forces (SOF) tasked with "greater responsibility for planning and conducting worldwide counterterrorism operations," systematic human rights violations in Afghanistan and Iraq was just another day at the office.

Intimate with the narcotrafficking, al-Qaeda-linked Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), JSOU avers that Crawford "personally authored the intelligence plan for military operations in Kosovo and was the lead strategist for developing USSOCOM's advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities for counterterrorism operations."

A rather ironic claim considering that right-up to the moment of the 9/11 attacks, as former FBI translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds revealed, the United States employed Afghan-Arab veterans of the anti-Soviet jihad for destabilization operations in innumerable global hot spots.

Manhunting: The Return of Operation Condor?

This isn't the first time that America's engagement with "dark actors" involved in "manhunting" as a state-sponsored blood sport led to a devil's pact with torturers, drug dealers and sociopathic fascist killers.

During the 1970s, in the wake of the overthrow of Chile's democratically-elected socialist president, Salvador Allende, the intelligence and security services of several Latin American states, notably Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay launched a secretive program, Operation Condor--with a major assist from the CIA and the Pentagon--that tracked down and murdered leftist opponents.

Operating under the radar, Condor operatives included military personnel, European neofascists, CIA-trained Cuban terrorists and international narcotraffickers who did the "wet work" for their political masters, Latin American oligarchs and their North American allies. Thousands were killed and thousands more "disappeared" into clandestine prisons.

Long Island University political science professor, J. Patrice McSherry, revealed, "U.S. military and intelligence forces were well informed of Condor operations, and the United States played a key covert role in modernizing and extending the Condor apparatus. An Argentine military source told a U.S. Embassy contact in 1976 that the CIA had been deeply involved in setting up computerized links among the intelligence and operations units of the six Condor states."

Indeed, so extensive were these links that "U.S. forces also gave the Condor organization access to the U.S. continental communications system based in the Panama Canal Zone." A declassified 1978 cable from U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay Robert White to the Secretary of State, "revealed that Condor operatives made use of a U.S. facility in the Canal Zone for secret communications and intelligence coordination."

The Pentagon, according to White's declassified cable, provided the narco-linked death squad with the sophisticated electronic means to coordinate global operations.

General Alejandro Fretes Dávalos, commander of Paraguay's armed forces told the ambassador, "that intelligence chiefs from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay used 'an encrypted system within the U.S. telecommunications net[work],' which covered all of Latin America, to 'coordinate intelligence information'."

"Essentially," McSherry wrote, "U.S. military and/or intelligence forces put the official U.S. communications channel at the disposal of Operation Condor. It was a collaboration reflecting high-level executive approval of Condor."

This "high-level executive approval" of an international death squad reflected past--and current--Pentagon thinking that when it comes to killing capitalism's opponents, everything is permitted.

The parallels to contemporary American covert intelligence and military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with their documented linkages to the flourishing international drug trade are striking.

That these moves by Washington to seize the geostrategic high ground vis-à-vis their imperialist rivals, as in Latin America decades earlier, have spawned an unholy alliance with far-right political forces, warlords, religious extremists and drug traffickers, exposes the lie that U.S. military intervention has anything to do with democracy and human rights. Thirty years ago Danish journalist Henrik Krüger observed:

International Fascista was a crucial first step toward fulfilling the dream not only of [SS Col. Otto] Skorzeny, but also of his close friends in Madrid exile, José Lopez Rega, Juan Peron's grey eminence, and Prince Justo Valerio Borghese, the Italian Fascist money man who had been rescued from execution at the hands of the World War II Italian resistance by future CIA counterintelligence whiz James J. Angleton. They, and other Nazi and Fascist powers throughout Europe and Latin America, envisioned a new world order built on a Fascist Iron Circle linking Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, La Paz, Brasilia and Montevideo. (Henrik Krüger, The Great Heroin Coup: Drugs, Intelligence, & International Fascism, Boston: South End Press, 1980, p. 210)

Shaped by French unconventional warfare doctrines, U.S. counterinsurgency tactics employed in Southeast Asia, and their own on the ground expertise crushing dissent, the "new professionalism of internal security" deployed by Condor operatives--code for massive repression and unrestrained violence--was directed against the people of Latin America with predictable results.

Eerily prefiguring America's "War on Terror," counterinsurgency "specialist" Roger Trinquier, the author of Modern Warfare and an architect of France's bloody repression during the Algerian anticolonial struggle (1954-1962), averred that counterguerrillas must employ the full range of psychological warfare techniques against the civilian population if victory is to be achieved. This is a thesis to which Crawford returns time and again, particularly as it relates to the covert decapitation of resistance networks by American manhunters.

Fast forward and it becomes all-too-clear that Krüger's "Fascist Iron Circle" didn't disappear with Pinochet's fall from grace; instead, it has morphed into a high-tech killing machine whose tentacles have fanned-out from the Washington Beltway to encircle the globe. Peter Dale Scott, writing on America's descent into a lawless state presciently remarked:

Mafias and empires have certain elements in common. Both can be seen as the systematic violent imposition of governance in areas of undergovernance. Both use atrocities to achieve their ends; but both tend to be tolerated to the extent that the result of their controlled violence is a diminution of uncontrolled violence. I would tentatively suggest an important difference between mafias and empires: that, with the passage of time, mafias tend to become more and more part of the civil society whose rules they once broke, while empires tend to become more and more irreconcilably at odds with the societies they once controlled. ("Deep Events and the CIA's Global Drug Connection," Global Research, September 6, 2008)

Indeed, the "controlled violence" implicit in Crawford's thesis, provides stark confirmation of Scott's analysis that as the imperialist empire unravels it tends "to become more and more irreconcilably at odds" with popular control in a democratic republic.

The Mechanics of Standing Up a Death Squad

In "Unconventional Warfare in the 21st Century," Antifascist Calling revealed last December that USSOCOM had published its definitive doctrine on the subject. Titled Unconventional Warfare, the 248-page document asserted that Unconventional Warfare or UW establishes a "litmus test," namely warfare conducted "by, with or through surrogates" and that their preferred assets are irregular forces:

Irregulars, or irregular forces, are individuals or groups of individuals who are not members of a regular armed force, police, or other internal security force. They are usually nonstate-sponsored and unconstrained by sovereign nation legalities and boundaries. These forces may include, but are not limited to, specific paramilitary forces, contractors, individuals, businesses, foreign political organizations, resistance or insurgent organizations, expatriates, transnational terrorism adversaries, disillusioned transnational terrorism members, black marketers, and other social or political "undesirables." (Army Special Operations Forces, Unconventional Warfare, Field Manual No. 3-05.130, Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 30 September 2008, p. 1-3)

And with an explicitly stated goal to "gain or maintain control or influence over the population and to support that population through political, psychological, and economic methods," the organization that Crawford proposes in Manhunting clearly exists along this UW warfighting continuum.

Manhunting--the deliberate concentration of national power to find, influence, capture, or when necessary kill an individual to disrupt a human network--has emerged as a key component of operations to counter irregular warfare adversaries in lieu of traditional state-on-state conflict measures. It has arguably become a primary area of emphasis in countering terrorist and insurgent opponents. (George A. Crawford, Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare, JSOU Report 09-7, The JSOU Press, Hurlburt Field, Florida, September 2009, p. 1)

In the author's view, a national manhunting agency of necessity, will be a hybrid organization, combining features of a Special Forces small tactical team with those of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), the U.S. Marshals Services' Special Operations Group (USMSSOG) at the federal level, "down to Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams and fugitive or criminal task forces in most U.S. cities."

In addition to American examples, the author cites New Scotland Yard's Antiterrorist Branch (SO13), Germany's Grenzschutzgruppe (GSG-9), and the French Groupe de Sécurité et d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN) as examples of a combined task force built on the "elite unit concept." Moving on, Crawford recommends Israel's Sayaret Mat'kal, "a special reconnaissance unit within Israel's General Headquarters Intelligence Corps.

Lest readers forget, New Scotland Yard's Antiterrorist Branch, SO13, was the "crack" unit that murdered Jean Claude de Menezes in cold blood on a London subway in 2005.

After an investigation that was little more than a cover-up, it was revealed that de Menezes was entirely innocent and had been mistakenly targeted by SO13's armed wing, SO19, as part of "Operation Kratos," the Met's controversial "shoot-to-kill" program meant to take down suspected terrorists and would-be suicide bombers.

De Menezes was neither, but that didn't stop police from pumping seven bullets into his head.

Tellingly, SO13 was stood up after consultations with Israeli "experts," well-known for their fidelity to human rights, the rule of law and the sanctity of life, as Israel's murderous assault last year on Gaza amply demonstrated.

Acknowledged manhunting masters in their own right, the Israeli settler-colonial security apparat have perfected the art of the "targeted killing," when they aren't dropping banned munitions such as white phosphorus on unarmed and defenseless civilian populations.

Like their Israeli counterparts who come highly recommended as models of restraint, an American manhunting agency will employ similarly subtle, though no less lethal, tactics. Crawford writes:

When compared with conventional force-on-force warfare, manhunting fundamentally alters the ratio between warfare's respective firepower, maneuver, and psychological elements. Firepower becomes less significant in terms of mass, while the precision and discretion with which firepower is employed takes on tremendous significance, especially during influence operations. Why drop a bomb when effects operations or a knife might do? (Crawford, op. cit., p. 11, emphasis added)

Where "influence" and "effects" operations are concerned, secrecy and deceit are the norm and discretion in choosing a "target" is transformed into a morality play with a unique demonstration effect:

If internal security forces arrest a terrorist, it is an act of law enforcement, most often viewed favorably by both the international and domestic communities. If a terrorist is killed in an alley by an unknown assailant, it is an unsolved crime, a crime which may not be deeply investigated if the terrorist has a lengthy rap sheet. Thus it may be preferable to consign terrorist manhunting to intelligence and law enforcement organs and to avoid entanglements caused by crossing manhunting with military or diplomatic functions. Where manhunting is concerned, there may be legal and moral advantage in ambiguity and plausible denial. (Crawford, op. cit., p. 16)

Harken back to Seymour Hersh's description of how Dick Cheney's "executive assassination ring" actually performed in the real world: "they've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving."

This too, was the precise mechanism employed by Operation Condor assassins across Latin America, Europe and the United States during the 1970s. Small teams of highly-trained, plausibly deniable intelligence officers and assets, including NATO-trained Italian neofascists, Turkish narcotraffickers and CIA-sponsored Cuban exiles carried out a reign of terror against their Southern Cone leftist opponents.

While the 1976 car-bombing in Washington, D.C. that murdered former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his secretary, Ronni Moffitt, may be the most notorious Condor operation to come to light, dozens if not hundreds of other "catch and snatch" operations were carried out, with a wink-and-a-nod from Washington. Those "disappeared" into Argentine or Chilean dungeons were never to be seen again.

The highly-specialized and compartmented nature of Crawford's manhunting agency would become a permanent feature of America's oxymoronic "War on Terror."

They would be trained in physical, intelligence, and virtual-tracking techniques. The team will also include "shooters," supported by on-call logistics and administrative support. Rather than an ad-hoc task force in the nature of the current law enforcement, Intelligence Community, or DoD operations, manhunting teams would be standing formations, trained to pursue their designated quarry relentlessly for as long as required to accomplish the mission. In cases where action must take place in uncooperative countries, it may be necessary for teams to act unilaterally, with no support or coordination with local authorities, in a manner similar to that employed by Israel's Avner team in response to the Munich Olympics massacre. (Crawford, op. cit., p. 19)

Or I might add, by Pinochet's murderous Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (National Intelligence Directorate) or DINA. Since intelligence will be central to the proposed national manhunting agency, "sensitive site exploitation (SSE) teams are the second tactical formation needed for manhunting."

As with the actual shooters, SSE teams will be assembled and able to respond on-call "in the event of a raid on a suspect site or to conduct independent 'break-in and search' operations without leaving evidence of their intrusion." Such teams must possess "individual skills" such as "physical forensics, computer or electronic exploitation, document exploitation, investigative techniques, biometric collection, interrogation/debriefing and related skills."

Additionally, "Technical surveillance elements (TSE) or mobile surveillance teams (MST) will be stood up. According to Crawford, "Manhunting will require personnel who are experts at conducting surveillance of particular facilities, personnel, or activities without arousing suspicion or being detected."

They will be taught to blend in unobtrusively into an urban or remote background, often "hiding in plain sight." Some may be skilled at employing technical surveillance devices--wiretaps, video surveillance equipment, or more intrusive devices and methods. They will also be skilled at multiple forms of transportation across international boundaries. Their goal is to maintain surveillance on suspected activity, either confirming or denying hostile intent. Picture in your mind a typical city street scene, with a little old lady walking her dog, the phone repair crew descending into a manhole, two little old men playing an innocent game of checkers, or the homeless person sleeping on the park bench, and you are on the right track. (Crawford, op. cit., p. 21)

As if to drive home the point that the target of these sinister operations are the American people and world public opinion, Crawford, ever the consummate PSYOPS warrior, views "strategic information operations" as key to this murderous enterprise. Indeed, they "must be delicately woven into planned kinetic operations to increase the probability that a given operation or campaign will achieve its intended effect."

Personnel skilled at conducting strategic information operations--to include psychological operations, public information, deception, media and computer network operations, and related activities--are important for victory. Despite robust DoD and Intelligence Community capabilities in this area, efforts to establish organizations that focus information operations have not been viewed as a positive development by the public or the media, who perceive government-sponsored information efforts with suspicion. Consequently, these efforts must take place away from public eyes. Strategic information operations may also require the establishment of regional or local offices to ensure dissemination of influence packages and assess their impact. Thus manhunting influence may call for parallel or independent structures at all levels..." (Crawford, op. cit., pp. 27-28, emphasis added)

This too, follows the Condor model where independently organized "task forces" drawn from a pool of technical specialists operating under deep cover, carried out intense psychological operations that targeted public opinion on the home front, the better to silence anyone who might oppose the "shooters" who did the dirty work.

While "government-sponsored information efforts," i.e. illegal propaganda campaigns aimed at the American people by the secret state are viewed with "suspicion," perhaps Crawford's current employer, Archimedes Global, or dozens of other firms just like it would be better suited to for the "dissemination of influence packages"?

Unlike thirty years ago when Latin American oligarchs relied on CIA-financed publications such as El Mercurio in Chile or La Prensa in Argentina to fan the flames of anti-leftist discord and sow chaos, thus seeding the ground for the horrors that followed the military takeover, Pentagon media operations today still conform to principles enunciated decades earlier.

Indeed, Crawford's "information operations" mirror precisely the chilling discourse of Argentine V Army Corps Commander General Acdel Vilas: "In reality, the only total, integral warfare is cultural warfare. ... What we create in the individual is his mind. ... The fight isn't one to conquer terrain, physically, but to conquer minds. Not to take advantageous physical positions but to mold mental structures in his favor."

As with his forerunners in decades' past, Crawford's manhunting weltanschauung is not conducive to a democratic model of society but rather, to the darkness of a technocratic and immutable fascism servicing America's ruling oligarchy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Secret State Demands News Organization's Web Logs, Gets Slapped Down

When the Independent Media Center (IMC) received a formal notice on January 30 from the Department of Justice, demanding they provide an Indianapolis grand jury with "details of all reader visits on a certain day," the feisty left-wing news aggregators fought back, CBS News reported.

Investigative journalist Declan McCullagh revealed that the "change" administration's legal eagles issued an order that required the "Philadelphia-based Web site 'not to disclose the existence of this request' unless authorized by the Justice Department, a gag order that presents an unusual quandary for any news organization."

Kristina Clair, IndyMedia's Linux administrator, told CBS she was shocked to have received the subpoena with its flawed demand not to disclose its contents.

The subpoena from U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison in Indianapolis demanded "all IP traffic to and from" on June 25, 2008. It instructed Clair to "include IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information," including e-mail addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, and Indymedia readers' Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and so on. (Declan McCullagh, "Justice Dept. Asked for News Site's Visitor Lists," CBS News, November 10, 2009)

Talk about intrusive! While grand jury subpoenas of news organizations and journalists are not unprecedented, under long-standing guidelines these subpoenas are supposed to receive special handling given their sensitive nature, thus ensuring that even the appearance of prior restraint of a journalist's ability to report the news is avoided.

In IndyMedia's case however, DOJ's ham-handed stipulation amounted to government meddling clearly prohibited by the First Amendment. Not that any of this seems to matter to an administration hell-bent on defending--and expanding--every illegal program of the previous regime.

McCullagh writes that one section of the guidelines state that "no subpoena may be issued to any member of the news media" without "the express authorization of the attorney general," in this case, the secret state's newest "best friend forever" Eric Holder.

Indeed, these draconian writs must be "directed at material information regarding a limited subject matter." The government's demand however, for virtually every piece of information held by IndyMedia on their contributors and readers hardly qualifies as "limited" even in today's bizarro world of "national security" driftnet surveillance and data mining.

When queried by CBS as to what criminal investigation prompted their draconian demand for IP addresses "and any other identifying information" on IndyMedia users, U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison emailed CBS with a curt reply: "We Have no comment."

But before proceeding further, let's be clear on one thing: since the 1970s, the federal grand jury system where the prosecutor reigns supreme, has been an instrument wielded by the secret state to target dissent and to ensnare left-wing government critics in open-ended "investigations" whose sole purpose is to harass if not prosecute alleged "troublemakers."

As the late, great defender of civil liberties, Frank Donner, described in his landmark work on America's political intelligence system, during the lawless rampage against the left launched by the Nixon administration:

A new attack [on dissent] would have to be secret, clothed with a more plausible justification than the [red-hunting congressional] committees' claimed legislative purpose, and aimed inwardly at the group and its members.

The White House entrusted the grand jury offensive to the Internal Security Division (ISD) of the Department of Justice. This unit, which had languished during the post-McCarthy years, was now enlarged from a complement of six to sixty as part of a master plan to deploy all available resources against the new dissenters. ...

The secrecy of the grand jury proceeding cloaks abuses. Although secrecy historically served to protect the independence of the grand jury by insulating it from the pressures of the Crown, there can be little doubt that in the Nixon years grand jury secrecy became an instrument of the very evil it was intended to prevent. (Frank Donner, The Age of Surveillance, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980, pp. 355, 357)

Today, with antiwar groups, anarchists, socialists, animal rights and environmental activists clearly focused in the secret state's cross hairs, one can speculate that the DOJ's reticence to reveal what "crime" they were allegedly investigating in all probability related to information surreptitiously obtained by a paid informant or provocateur.

This hypothesis is all the more compelling when one considers that DOJ attorney's threatened Clair with obstruction of justice if she disclosed the existence of the subpoena, claiming it "may endanger someone's health" and would have a "human cost."

But shortly after receiving the onerous warrant Clair's shock turned to anger, and the sysadmin contacted the San Francisco-based civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who agreed to take on the government.

On November 9, EFF published a whitepaper outlining the shadowy nature of the secret state's latest moves to subvert our constitutional rights. According to EFF's senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston,

Secrecy surrounds law enforcement's communications surveillance practices like a dense fog. Particularly shrouded in secrecy are government demands issued under 18 U.S.C. § 2703 of the Stored Communications Act or "SCA" that seek subscriber information or other user records from communications service providers. When the government wants such data from a phone company or online service provider, it can obtain a court order under the SCA demanding the information from the provider, along with a gag order preventing the provider from disclosing the existence of the government's demand. More often, companies are simply served with subpoenas issued directly by prosecutors without any court involvement; these demands, too, are rarely made public. ("From EFF's Secret Files: Anatomy of a Bogus Subpoena," Electronic Frontier Foundation, November 9, 2009)

Undeterred by the quickly broken promises of the Obama regime to "restore the rule of law," like their Bushist predecessors, Obama's Justice Department is the golden shield that hides from public view the high crimes and misdemeanors of America's corporatist police state.

Readers of Antifascist Calling are urged to read EFF's well-written analysis. It meticulously dissects the lawless behavior of administration attorneys who, without skipping a beat, attempted to brow-beat a news organization into submission, thus preventing them from doing what they do best: informing the public, not as court stenographers but, as the heroic Israeli journalist Amira Hass has averred by "monitoring the centers of power."

Readers are also urged to read the government's subpoena in its entirety, an exercise in overreaching and a clear violation of the state's own guidelines governing the issuance of these onerous warrants.

Grand jury subpoenas are very easy for the government to get--they are issued directly by prosecutors without any direct court oversight. Therefore, the SCA limits what those subpoenas can obtain, in contrast to a search warrant or other court order. Under the SCA's 18 U.S.C. § 2703(c)(2), grand jury subpoenas can only be used to get basic subscriber-identifying information about a target--e.g., a particular user's name, IP address, physical address or payment details--and certain types of telephone logs; any other records require a court order or a search warrant. ...

However, with the Indymedia subpoena, the government departed from the text of the law and the Justice Department's own sample subpoena by inserting this demand: "Please provide the following information pursuant to [18 U.S.C. § 2703(c)(2)]: All IP traffic to and from" for a particular date, including "IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information."

In other words, the government was asking for the IP address of every one of's thousands of visitors on that date--the IP address of every person who read any news story on the entire site. Not only did this request threaten every visitor's First Amendment right to read the news anonymously (particularly considering that the government could easily obtain the name and address associated with each IP address via subpoenas to the ISPs that control those IP blocks), it plainly violated the SCA's restrictions on what types of data the government could obtain using a subpoena. The subpoena was also patently overbroad, a clear fishing expedition: there's no way that the identity of every Indymedia reader of every Indymedia story was relevant to the crime being investigated by the grand jury in Indiana, whatever that crime may be. (EFF, op. cit., emphasis in original)

CBS reported that EFF wrote a series of letters to the DOJ. The first detailed the flaws in the original subpoena while the second pointedly said that if the government needed to muzzle IndyMedia, it should apply for a formal gag order under the relevant section of federal law.

Hardly the sharpest knives in the drawer, DOJ higher-ups quickly caught on and realized that the group was about to challenge the law on First Amendment grounds. At that point, the state backed down and withdrew the subpoena. EFF wrote, "Obviously, that was a fight--and more importantly, a precedent--that the government wanted to avoid."

The lesson here? When the state comes knocking, the first and best line of defense is to seek competent legal advice from the relevant civil liberties' organization.

Handing over information that the government is not legally entitled to, or indeed, answering questions posed by federal investigators trained in subtle interview techniques without an attorney present can--and has--resulted in "obstruction of justice" or a "lying to federal government agents" indictment, a crime under Title 18, United States Code, § 1001. Silence is always an option.

A good place to start learning how to fight back against electronic spying practices is a working familiarity with EFF's excellent handbook "Surveillance Self-Defense."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Obama Regime: Toss NSA Warrantless Wiretapping Lawsuit

President Barack Obama instructed Justice Department attorneys to argue last week in San Francisco before Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker, that he must toss out the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Shubert v. Bush lawsuit challenging the secret state's driftnet surveillance of Americans' electronic communications.

This latest move by the administration follows a pattern replicated countless times by Obama since assuming the presidency in January: denounce the lawless behavior of his Oval Office predecessor while continuing, even expanding, the reach of unaccountable security agencies that subvert constitutional guarantees barring "unreasonable searches and seizures." EFF senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston wrote:

In a Court filing late Friday night, the Obama Administration attempted to dress up in new clothes its embrace of one of the worst Bush Administration positions--that courts cannot be allowed to review the National Security Agency's massive, well-documented program of warrantless surveillance. In doing so it demonstrated that it will not willingly set limits on its own power and reinforced the need for Congress to step in and reform the so-called 'state secrets' privilege. (Kevin Bankston, "As Congress Considers State Secrets Reform, Obama Admin Tries to Shut Down Yet Another Warrantless Wiretapping Lawsuit," Electronic Frontier Foundation, November 2, 2009)

In June, Judge Walker dismissed EFF's landmark Hepting v. ATT lawsuit, when he ruled that the telecoms enjoyed immunity from liability after the Democratic-controlled Congress rammed through the despicable FISA Amendments Act (FAA) in July 2008.

That law, passed in response to citizen challenges to the state and their corporate partners in crime, granted the Attorney General exclusive power to require dismissal of the lawsuits "if the government secretly certifies to the court that the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president," the civil liberties' watchdog group wrote in June.

In essence, it is not the co-equal and independent federal Judiciary that determines whether or not a crime has been committed that flaunts constitutional norms but rather, an unchallengeable assertion by an imperial Executive Branch.

As Antifascist Calling has averred many times, this craven capitulation by Congress to the Executive locks in place the statutory machinery for a presidential dictatorship, one where power is wielded with neither transparency nor accountability.

EFF's Jewel v. NSA civil suit, brought on behalf of AT&T customers to halt the firm's ongoing collaboration with the government's illegal surveillance continues--for the moment.

In April however, taking a page from the Bush/Cheney playbook, the Obama administration argued that this lawsuit too, must be dismissed, claiming that should the litigation go forward it would require government disclosure of "privileged state secrets."

Antifascist Calling reported at the time that the Obama administration has argued that under provisions of the disgraceful USA PATRIOT Act, the state is "immune from suit under the two remaining key federal surveillance laws: the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act."

Claiming "sovereign immunity" in practice, this means that under DoJ's ludicrous interpretation of the Orwellian PATRIOT Act, the government can never be held accountable for illegal surveillance under any federal statute. As Salon pointed out:

In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad "state secrets" privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and--even if what they're doing is blatantly illegal and they know it's illegal--you are barred from suing them unless they "willfully disclose" to the public what they have learned. (Glenn Greenwald, "New and worse secrecy and immunity claims from the Obama DOJ," Salon, April 6, 2009)

The "change" regime's cynical maneuver to have Shubert kicked to the curb is all the more remarkable considering that the Justice Department announced a month earlier that the administration will "impose new limits on the government assertion of the state secrets privilege used to block lawsuits for national security reasons," The New York Times reported.

"Under the new policy," investigative journalist Charlie Savage wrote, "if an agency like the National Security Agency or the Central Intelligence Agency wanted to block evidence or a lawsuit on state secrets grounds, it would present an evidentiary memorandum describing its reasons to the assistant attorney general for the division handling the lawsuit in question."

According to the Times, "if that official recommended approving the request" it would be sent on to a high-level committee comprised of DoJ officials who would be charged "whether the disclosure of information would risk 'significant harm' to national security."

Under the new guidelines, Justice Department officials are supposed to reject the request to deploy the state secrets privilege to quash lawsuits if the Executive Branch's motivation for doing so would "conceal violations of the law, inefficiency or administrative error" or to "prevent embarrassment."

While Holder has claimed DoJ's so-called "high-level committee" has reviewed the relevant material and concluded that disclosure would risk "significant harm" to "national security" if the case went forward, security analyst Steven Aftergood wrote in Secrecy News that "one aspect of the new policy that he did not address was the question of referral of the alleged misconduct to an agency inspector general for investigation."

This is supposed to occur whenever "invocation of the privilege would preclude adjudication of particular claims," as it certainly does in the Shubert litigation, particularly when the "case raises credible allegations of government wrongdoing."

However as Aftergood avers, "somewhat artfully" (although this writer prefers a stronger phrase to describe the Attorney General's actions) "the government denies that any such collection occurred 'under the Terrorist Surveillance Program,' implicitly allowing for the possibility that it may have occurred under some other framework."

What that "other framework" is hasn't been specified; however, in all probability it relates to other NSA above top secret Special Access Programs which haven't come to light.

Whatever the secret state is continuing to do under Obama, a recent piece in InformationWeek provides striking details that it is massive.

The publication reports that the NSA "will soon break ground on a data center in Utah that's budgeted to cost $1.5 billion."

According to InformationWeek, the new facility will "provide intelligence and warnings related to cybersecurity threats, cybersecurity support to defense and civilian agency networks, and technical assistance to the Department of Homeland Security."

The new data center will be located at Camp Williams, a National Guard training facility 26 miles from Salt Lake City in the conservative state of Utah. While providing few details on how NSA will use the 1.5 million square foot center, Glenn Gaffney, a deputy director of intelligence with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), claims that NSA will "protect civil liberties."

"We will accomplish this in full compliance with the U.S. Constitution and federal law and while observing strict guidelines that protect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people," Gaffney said.

As with other pronouncements by intelligence officials, Gaffney's statement should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

The New York Times revealed in April and June that the ultra-spooky agency "intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year."

Indeed, a former NSA analyst told investigative journalists James Risen and Eric Lichtblau that he was "trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans' e-mail messages without court warrants."

We do know that NSA's STELLAR WIND and PINWALE intercept programs are giant data mining vacuum cleaners that sift emails, faxes, and text messages of millions of people in the United States. These programs are not, as the Bush and now, the Obama regime mendaciously claim, primarily "targeting al-Qaeda."

As Cryptohippie points out in their analysis of current global surveillance trends, "an electronic police state is quiet, even unseen. All of its legal actions are supported by abundant evidence. It looks pristine."

Answering those who claim they have "nothing to hide," Cryptohippie argues that "state use of electronic technologies to record, organize, search and distribute forensic evidence" is primarily for use "against its citizens."

Indeed, the information gathered by the secret state and stored in huge data warehouses scattered across the country "is criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial," and "it is gathered universally and silently, and only later organized for use in prosecutions."

In an Electronic Police State, 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. (Cryptohippie, The Electronic Police State: 2008 National Rankings, no date)

How does this "quiet, pristine" system operate? As AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein revealed in a sworn affidavit that described how the company physically split and copied the traffic that flowed into its offices, NSA was virtually duplicating, sifting and storing the entire Internet. Klein wrote in his self-published book:

What screams out at you when examining this physical arrangement is that the NSA was vacuuming up everything flowing in the Internet stream: e-mail, web browsing, Voice-Over-Internet phone calls, pictures, streaming video, you name it. The splitter has no intelligence at all, it just makes a blind copy. There could not possibly be a legal warrant for this, since according to the 4th Amendment warrants have to be specific, "particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." ...

This was a massive blind copying of the communications of millions of people, foreign and domestic, randomly mixed together. From a legal standpoint, it does not matter what they claim to throw away later in the their secret rooms, the violation has already occurred at the splitter. (Mark Klein, Wiring Up the Big Brother Machine... And Fighting It, Charleston, South Carolina: BookSurge, 2009, pp. 38-39.)

Klein's revelations were confirmed by former NSA analyst and whistleblower Russell Tice, who told MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann in January that the NSA "had access to all Americans' communications" and spied "24/7" on domestic political activist groups and "U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists."

In demanding that the independent federal judiciary toss these cases, the Obama administration is asserting a broad interpretation of Executive Branch privileges that caused much outrage and hand-wringing by congressional Democrats--when they were out of power.

Under the "change" regime however, what were once viewed by Democrats and their supporters as prime examples of Bushist lawlessness and contempt for constitutional safeguards, are now deemed vital state secrets that "protect" the American people, even as the capitalist state wages an endless "War on Terror" to seize other people's resources for geostrategic advantage over the competition. As Glenn Greenwald wrote:

That was the principal authoritarian instrument used by Bush/Cheney to shield itself from judicial accountability, and it is now the instrument used by the Obama DOJ to do the same. Initially, consider this: if Obama's argument is true--that national security would be severely damaged from any disclosures about the government's surveillance activities, even when criminal--doesn't that mean that the Bush administration and its right-wing followers were correct all along when they insisted that The New York Times had damaged American national security by revealing the existence of the illegal NSA program? Isn't that the logical conclusion from Obama's claim that no court can adjudicate the legality of the program without making us Unsafe? (Glenn Greenwald, "Obama's latest use of 'secrecy' to shield presidential lawbreaking," Salon, November 1, 2009)

Democrat or Republican, "liberal" or "conservative:" what matters most for all factions in Washington is the defense and preservation of the class privileges of the capitalist elite.

Criminality on such a scale requires that the armed fist of the state is mobilized and ever-vigilant; ready at the nonce to crush anyone who would challenge the prerogatives of our masters.