Sunday, July 31, 2011

White House Stonewalls Senators on Use of "Secret Law" to Spy on Americans

During last spring's run-up to the reauthorization of three expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) charged that the administration and the FBI was relying on a "secret" interpretation of law to vacuum-up exabytes of data, including cell phone location records and internet data mining that target Americans.

In March, a written statement to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security by Justice Department official Todd Hinnen confirmed that the administration had used Section 215, the so-called "business records" section of the Act "to obtain driver's license records, hotel records, car rental records, apartment leasing records, credit card records, and the like."

Further confirmation of Wyden's charges came from an unlikely source: a White House nominee for a top counterterrorism position.

Last week Wired reported that Matthew Olsen, the administration's pick to head the National Counterterrorism Center "acknowledged that 'some of the pleadings and opinions related to the Patriot Act' to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that approves snooping warrants 'are classified'."

If confirmed, Olsen will replace Michael E. Leiter, the Bushist embed who told the Senate last year during hearings into 2009's aborted plot to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day: "I will tell you, that when people come to the country and they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another."

What those reasons are for wanting a terrorist to board a packed airliner were not spelled out to Senate nor were they explored by corporate media. This raises an inevitable question: what else is the administration concealing from the American people?

White House Stonewall

Back in May, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department "demanding the release of a secret legal memo used to justify FBI access to Americans' telephone records without any legal process or oversight."

So far, the administration has refused to release the memos.

According to the civil liberties' watchdogs, a report last year by the DOJ's own Inspector General "revealed how the FBI, in defending its past violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), had come up with a new legal argument to justify secret, unchecked access to private telephone records."

"The Obama administration," The Washington Post reports, has continued "to resist the efforts of two Democratic senators to learn more about the government's interpretation of domestic surveillance law, stating that 'it is not reasonably possible' to identify the number of Americans whose communications may have been monitored under the statute."

In a letter to Wyden and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), Kathleen Turner, the director of legislative affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), claimed that a "joint oversight team" has not uncovered evidence "of any intentional or willful attempts to violate or circumvent the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA, which was amended in 2008."

Turner went on to say that "with respect to FAA" [FISA Amendments Act of 2008, the statute that "legalized" Bushist surveillance programs and handed retroactive immunity to spying telecoms like AT&T], "you [Wyden] asked whether any significant interpretations of the FAA are currently classified. As you are aware, opinions of the FISA Court usually contain extensive discussions of particularly sources, methods and operations and are therefore classified."

Throwing the onus back on political grifters in the House and Senate, Turner wrote: "Even though not publicly available, by law any opinion containing a significant legal interpretation is provided to the congressional intelligence committees."

With circular logic Turner claims that because "FISA Court opinions are so closely tied to the facts of the application under review that they cannot be made public in any meaningful form without compromising the sensitive sources and methods at issue."

At best, her statement is disingenuous. After all, it is precisely that secret interpretation of the law made by the White House Office of Legal Counsel that Wyden and others, including EFF, the Electronic Privacy Information Network (EPIC) and journalists are demanding the administration clarify.

Justice Department Shields NSA's Private Partners

The FBI isn't the only agency shielded by the Justice Department under cover of bogus "state secrets" assertions by the Obama administration.

On July 13, EPIC reported that a U.S. District Court Judge issued an opinion in their lawsuit (EPIC v. NSA), "and accepted the NSA's claim" that it can "neither confirm nor deny" that the agency "had entered into a relationship with Google following the China hacking incident in January 2010."

The privacy watchdogs sought documents under FOIA "because such an agreement could reveal that the NSA is developing technical standards that would enable greater surveillance of Internet users."

According to EPIC, the administration's "Glomar response" to "neither confirm nor deny" a covert relationship amongst giant media corporations such as Google and secret state agencies "is a controversial legal doctrine that allows agencies to conceal the existence of records that might otherwise be subject to public disclosure."

This issue is hardly irrelevant to internet users. CNET News reported last week that "Google's Street View cars collected the locations of millions of laptops, cell phones, and other Wi-Fi devices around the world, a practice that raises novel privacy concerns."

And given the government's penchant to vacuum-up so-called "transactional data" without benefit of a warrant, would media giants such as Google, high-tech behemoths such as Apple or Microsoft, beholden to the federal government for regulatory perks, resist efforts by the feds demanding they cough-up users' locational data?

Investigative journalist Declan McCullagh found that the cars "were supposed to collect the locations of Wi-Fi access points. But Google also recorded the street addresses and unique identifiers of computers and other devices using those wireless networks and then made the data publicly available through until a few weeks ago."

According to CNET, "the French data protection authority, known as the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) recently contacted CNET and said its investigation confirmed that Street View cars collected these unique hardware IDs. In March, CNIL's probe resulted in a fine of 100,000 euros, about $143,000."

On Friday, CNET reported that Microsoft too, is in on the geolocation spy game.

Declan McCullagh wrote that "Microsoft has collected the locations of millions of laptops, cell phones, and other Wi-Fi devices around the world and makes them available on the Web."

A security researcher confirmed that the "vast database available through publishes the precise geographical location, which can point to a street address and sometimes even a corner of a building, of Android phones, Apple devices, and other Wi-Fi enabled gadgets."

Such information in the hands of government snoops would prove invaluable when it comes to waging War On Terror 2.0, the so-called "cyber war." Which is why the administration is fighting tooth and nail to keep this information from the public.

On the cyber front, EPIC is suing the White House to obtain the top secret National Security Presidential Directive that sets out the "NSA's cyber security authority," and is seeking clarification from the agency about so-called internet vulnerability assessments, "the Director's classified views on how the NSA's practices impact Internet privacy, and the NSA's 'Perfect Citizen' program."

As Antifascist Calling previously reported, "Perfect Citizen" is a $100 million privacy-killing program under development by the agency and defense giant Raytheon. Published reports informed us that the program will rely on a suite of sensors deployed in computer networks and that proprietary software will persistently monitor whichever system they are plugged into.

While little has been revealed about how Perfect Citizen will work, it was called by a corporate insider the cyber equivalent of "Big Brother," according to an email obtained last year by The Wall Street Journal.

New Report Highlights "Transparency" Fraud

The refusal by the White House to divulge information that impact Americans' civil liberties and privacy rights, along with their expansion of repressive national security and surveillance programs launched by the Bush regime, underscores the fraudulent nature of Obama's so-called "transparency administration."

A new report published by the American Civil Liberties Union, Drastic Measures Required: Congress needs to Overhaul U.S. Secrecy Laws and Increase Oversight of the Secret Security Establishment, documents how "out-of-control secrecy is a serious disease that is hurting American democracy."

Authors Jay Stanley and former FBI undercover agent turned whistleblower, Michael German, write that "we are now living in an age of government secrecy run amok."

According to the report, "reality has not always lived up to the rhetoric" of the Obama regime. Since the administration took office, the White House:

• Embraced the Bush administration's tactic of using overbroad "state secrets" claims to block lawsuits challenging government misconduct.

• Fought a court order to release photos depicting the abuse of detainees held in U.S. custody and supported legislation to exempt these photos from FOIA retroactively. Worse, the legislation gave the Secretary of Defense sweeping authority to withhold any visual images depicting the government's "treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained" by U.S. forces, no matter how egregious the conduct depicted or how compelling the public's interest in disclosure.

• Threatened to veto legislation designed to reform congressional notification procedures for covert actions.

• Aggressively pursued whistleblowers who reported waste, fraud and abuse in national security programs with criminal prosecutions to a greater degree than any previous presidential administration.

• Refused to declassify information about how the government uses its authority under section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect information about Americans not relevant to terrorism or espionage investigations. (Mike German and John Stanley, Drastic Measures Required, Washington, D.C., The American Civil Liberties Union, July 2011, pp. 7-8)

Amongst other findings in the report we learn that more than 2.4 million personnel, "official" denizens of the secret state which include the 16 agencies of the so-called "Intelligence Community" and outsourced private contractors hold top secret and above security clearances.

Although the Government Accountability Office (GAO) disclosed that the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2010 "required required the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to calculate and report the aggregate number of security clearances for all government employees and contractors to Congress by February 2011," as of this writing "the DNI has so far failed to produce this data."

Last year, The Washington Post's "Top Secret America" series revealed that "some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States," and that "the privatization of national security" has been made possible by a "nine-year 'gusher' of money."

The Post's reporting on America's security outsourcing mania echoed critical investigations by other journalists, including those by Tim Shorrock, who has reported extensively on intelligence privatization in his essential book Spies For Hire and by James Bamford in The Shadow Factory, which explored how NSA was turned loose on the American people.

In a follow-up piece last December, investigative journalists Dana Priest and William M. Arkin described how "the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators."

"The government's goal," Priest and Arkin wrote, "is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States."

As the Post reported, "technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America."

This is a pernicious development. As I reported three years ago, one such program were efforts by the Department of Homeland Security, partnering-up with the Pentagon, to train America's fleet of top secret surveillance satellites on the American people.

That program, since killed by DHS, the National Applications Office, would have provided state and local authorities access to geospatial intelligence gleaned from military spy satellites and would have done so with no congressional oversight or privacy controls in place and would have handed over this sensitive data to selected law enforcement partners.

Local Police Control Ceded to the FBI

Along with intrusive techniques and highly-classified programs, Priest and Arkin wrote that the FBI has built "a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously."

What constitutes "suspicious behavior" of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and can constitute anything from taking photographs on a public street to organizing and participating in protests against America's endless wars.

Just recently, the San Francisco Bay Guardian revealed that local cops "assigned to the FBI's terrorism task force can ignore local police orders and California privacy laws to spy on people without any evidence of a crime."

Investigative journalist Sarah Phelan discovered that even after a "carefully crafted" set of rules on intelligence gathering had been in place "since police spying scandals of the 1990s," were "bypassed without the knowledge or consent of the S.F. Police Commission."

John Crew, a police practices expert with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California told the Bay Guardian that the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding by S.F. cops and the FBI means that "Police Commission policies do not apply" and that it "allows San Francisco police to circumvent local intelligence-gathering policies and follow more permissive federal rules."

Despite serious concerns over the Bureau's long-standing practice of spying on political dissidents and its "War On Terror" racial profiling policies, in a follow-up piece the Bay Guardian reported that Police Commission President Thomas Mazzucco, a former federal prosecutor, seemed "more concerned about defending federal practices and officials ... than worrying about the role and authority of the civilian oversight body he now represents."

The ACLU's Crew noted that when the FBI came to the SFPD with a new MOU, "there was no review by the City Attorney, and no notice to the police commission."

"Now, we didn't know about that MOU because it was kept secret at the insistence of the FBI for four years," Crew told Sarah Phelan. Crew also noted that "when ACLU and ALC [Asian Law Caucus] met with the SFPD in 2010, they were suddenly told that the police department couldn't talk about these issues without FBI permission.

"That set off a warning sign," Crew observed, "noting that in early April, when the ACLU and ALC finally got the MOU released, their worst suspicions were confirmed."

"There was no public discussion of transforming the SFPD into a national intelligence gathering association," ALC attorney Veena Dubal told the Bay Guardian. "The problem is that the FBI changed the deal, and the SFPD signed it, without telling anyone."

Neither the Bay Guardian nor the ACLU of Northern California have released the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding. However, the secrecy-shredding web site Public Intelligence has posted a sample MOU that makes for interesting reading indeed.

According to the document, local police agencies who participate in JTTFs will adhere to loose rules covered by the "Attorney General's Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations." As Antifascist Calling reported last month, those rules will soon be loosened even further by "constitutional scholar" Barack Obama's Justice Department.

But here's the kicker; local police participating in JTTFs will be subject to rules crafted in Washington. State and municipal policies which sought to limit out-of-control spying on local activists by notorious police "Red Squads," are annulled in favor of "guidance on investigative matters handled by the JTTF" that "will be issued by the Attorney General and the FBI."

Such "guidance" we're told governs everything from "the Use of Confidential Informants" to "Guidelines Regarding Disclosure to the Director of Central Intelligence and Homeland Security Officials of Foreign Intelligence Acquired in the Course of a Criminal Investigation."

In other words, police participating in JTTFs become the CIA's eyes on the ground!

We are informed that "in order to comply with Presidential Directives, the policy and program management of the JTTFs is the responsibility of FBI Headquarters (FBIHQ)." As readers are well aware, more often than not those "Presidential Directives" arrive with built-in poison pills in the form of top secret annexes concealed from the public.

Such questions are not academic exercises.

More than three years ago, author and researcher Peter Dale Scott wrote in CounterPunch that "Congressman Peter DeFazio, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the House that he and the rest of his Committee had been barred from reviewing parts of National Security Presidential Directive 51, the White House supersecret plans to implement so-called 'Continuity of Government' in the event of a mass terror attack or natural disaster."

"The story," Scott wrote, "ignored by the mainstream press, involved more than the usual tussle between the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. Government. What was at stake was a contest between Congress's constitutional powers of oversight, and a set of policy plans that could be used to suspend or modify the constitution."

Should something go wrong, the onus for civil or criminal penalties resulting from lawsuits for illegal acts by JTTF officers rests solely with local taxpayers who may have to foot the bill. This is clearly spelled out: "The Participating Agency acknowledges that financial and civil liability, if any and in accordance with applicable law, for the acts and omissions of each employee detailed to the JTTF remains vested with his or her employing agency."

Got that? You violate someone's rights and then get caught, well, tough luck chumps.

Intelligence Spending, No End in Sight

While the administration and their troglodytic Republican allies in Congress are planning massive cuts in social spending as a result of a manufactured "deficit crisis," the President's fiscal year 2012 budget proposes a five-year freeze for "all discretionary spending outside of security."

Indeed, according to the Associated Press, the Defense Department will reap a windfall some $727.4 billion and DHS $44.3 billion. But these numbers only tell part of the story.

Back in March, Secrecy News disclosed that figures provided by ODNI and the Secretary of Defense "document the steady rise of the total U.S. intelligence budget from $63.5 billion in FY2007 up to last year's total of $80.1 billion."

Americans are told they face "hard choices" when it comes to America's fiscal house of cards and that they--and they alone--not the capitalist thieves who destroyed the economy, must shoulder the burden.

But as economist Michael Hudson warned last week Global Research, the American people are "being lead to economic slaughter."

Hudson writes that "whenever one finds government officials and the media repeating an economic error as an incessant mantra, there always is a special interest at work. The financial sector in particular seeks to wrong-foot voters into believing that the economy will be plunged into crisis if Wall Street does not get its way--usually by freeing it from taxes and deregulating it."

However, when it comes to the secret state and the corporate interests they serve, regulators, in the form of congressional oversight or the public, seeking answers about illegal government programs, need not apply.

After all, as ODNI securocrat Kathleen Turner told the Senate, "the questions you pose ... are difficult to answer in an unclassified letter."

And so it goes...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Link to the Murdoch Scandal? Under the Radar Firm Sells Phone Tracking Tools to Police, Intelligence Agencies

Following revelations earlier this year by The Tech Herald that security firms with close ties to the Pentagon ran black ops for major U.S. banks and corporations, it became clear that proprietary software developed for the military and U.S. intelligence was being used to target Americans.

Those firms, including now-defunct HBGary Federal, parent company HBGary, Palantir (a start-up flush with cash from the CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel) and Berico Technologies had partnered-up with the Bank of America's law firm Hunton & Williams and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and devised a sub rosa plan of attack against WikiLeaks and Chamber critics.

And when the cyber-guerrilla collective Anonymous published some 70,000 emails and documents filched from HBGary servers, it was off to the races.

In the intervening months since that story first broke, journalists and researchers have turned their attention to a dark web of security firms developing surveillance software for law enforcement, the Pentagon, and repressive foreign governments.

Last week, Wired revealed that one such shadowy firm, TruePosition, "a holding of the Liberty Media giant that owns Sirius XM and the Atlanta Braves," is marketing "something it calls 'location intelligence,' or LOCINT, to intelligence and law enforcement agencies," investigative journalist Spencer Ackerman disclosed.

The Pennsylvania-based company has sold their location services system to NSA surveillance partner AT&T and T-Mobile, allowing those carriers to pinpoint "over 60 million 911 calls annually."

"For the better part of decade," Ackerman writes, "TruePosition has had contracts to provide E-911 services with AT&T (signed originally with Cingular in 2001, which AT&T acquired) and T-Mobile (2003)."

Known as "geofencing," the firm explains that location tech "collects, analyzes, stores and displays real-time and historical wireless events and locations of targeted mobile users."

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported that amongst the services TruePosition offers clients are "products for safety and security applications, including family monitoring, personal medical alert, emergency number service, and criminal tracking."

Additionally, BusinessWeek reports, the company tailors its "enterprise applications" to corporations interested in "workforce management, asset tracking, and location-based advertising; consumer applications, including local search, traffic, and navigation."

But what should concern readers is the firm's "government applications" market which includes everything from "homeland security" and "military intelligence" to "force tracking."

According to a press release posted on the firm's web site, the "TruePosition Location Intelligence Management System (LIMS)" is a "a multi-dimensional database, which uses probes within mobile networks to capture and store all mobile phone network events--including the time and the location of events. Mobile phone events are items like calls made and received, text messages sent and received, a phone powered on and off, and other rich mobile phone intelligence."

Deploying technology dubbed Uplink Time Difference of Arrival (U-TDOA), the system, installed on cell phone towers, identifies a phone's approximate location--within 30 meters--even if the handset isn't equipped with GPS.

Undoubtedly the system can save lives. "In one case," Ackerman reports, "a corrections officer ... was abducted by a recent parolee. But because her cellphone was turned on and her carrier used TruePosition's location tech, police were able to locate the phone along a Kentucky highway. They set up a roadblock, freed the officer and arrested her captor."

All well and good. However, in the hands of repressive governments or privacy-invading corporations, say Rupert Murdoch's media empire, there just might be far different outcomes.

A Link to the Murdoch Scandal?

The relevance of location intelligence in general and more pointedly, TruePosition's LIMS cellphone surveillance products which may, or may not, have been sold to London's Metropolitan Police and what role they may have played in the Murdoch News of the World (NoW) phone hacking scandal have not been explored by corporate media.

While the "who, what, where" aspects of the scandal are now coming sharply into focus, the "how," that is, the high-tech wizardry behind invasive privacy breaches, and which firms developed and profited from their sale, have been ignored.

Such questions, and related business entanglements, should be of interest to investigators on both sides of the Atlantic.

After all, TruePosition's parent company, the giant conglomerate Liberty Media currently holds an 18 percent stake in News Corporation.

With corporate tentacles stretching from investments in TimeWarner Cable to Expedia and from QVC to Starz and beyond, Liberty Media is a multi-billion dollar media behemoth with some $10.9 billion in revenue in 2010, according to an SEC filing by the firm.

With deep pockets and political clout in Washington the company is "juiced."

In 2011, Liberty's CEO, John C. Malone, surpassed Ted Turner as the largest private landowner in the United States, controlling some 2.1 million acres according to The New York Times.

Dubbed "Darth Vader" by The Independent, Malone acquired a 20 percent stake in News Corp. back in 2000 and "was one of the main investors who rode to the rescue of Mr Murdoch in the early 1990s when News Corp was on its knees."

The New York Times reported back in 2005 that Malone's firm was "unlikely to unwind its investment in the News Corporation" because he considered "the stake in the News Corporation a long-term investment, meaning that the relationship between him and Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of the News Corporation, was not likely to be dissolved any time soon."

After acrimonious mid-decade negotiations that stretched out over two years, the media giants cobbled together a deal in 2006 resulting in a $11 billion asset swap, one that gave Liberty control of the DirectTV Group whilst helping Murdoch "tighten his grip" on News Corp., according to The New York Times.

Interestingly enough during those negotiations, investment banking firms Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase along with the white shoe law firm Hogan & Hartson advised News Corp., while Liberty was represented by Bear Stearns and the Baker Botts law firm, long time Bush family consiglieres.

All this can be chalked-up to an interesting set of coincidences. However, the high stakes involved and the relationships and connections forged over decades, including those amongst players who figured prominently in capitalism's 2008 global economic crisis and Bush family corruption, cannot be ignored.

A Suspicious Death

Last week's suspicious death of former NoW whistleblower Sean Hoare should set alarm bells ringing.

When the scandal broke, it was Hoare who told The New York Times last year that senior editors at NoW and another Murdoch tabloid, The Sun, actively encouraged staff to spy on celebrities and others, including victims of the London terror attacks, British soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq and the murdered teenager Milly Dowler; all in pursuit of "exclusives."

The Guardian reported that Hoare said that "reporters at the NoW were able to use police technology to locate people using their mobile phone signals, in exchange for payments to police officers."

"He said journalists were able to use 'pinging', which measured the distance between a mobile handset and a number of phone masts to pinpoint its location," The Guardian revealed.

Hoare described "how reporters would ask a news desk executive to obtain the location of a target: "Within 15 to 30 minutes someone on the news desk would come back and say 'Right, that's where they are.'"

Quite naturally, this raises the question which "police technology" was used to massage NoW exclusives and which firms made a pretty penny selling their wares to police, allegedly for purposes of "fighting crime" and "counterterrorism"?

It was Hoare after all who told The New York Times just days before his death that when he worked for NoW "pinging cost the paper nearly $500 on each occasion."

According to the Times, Hoare found out how the practice worked "when he was scrambling to find someone and was told that one of the news desk editors, Greg Miskiw, could help."

The Times reports that Miskiw "asked for the person's cellphone number, and returned later with information showing the person's precise location in Scotland."

An unnamed "former Scotland Yard officer" interviewed by the Times said "the individual" who provided confidential information to NoW and other Murdoch holdings "could have been one of a small group entitled to authorize pinging requests," that is a senior counterterrorism officer charged with keeping the British public "safe."

Hoare told the Times "the fact that it was a police officer was clear from his exchange with Mr. Miskiw."

"'I thought it was remarkable and asked him how he did it, and he said, 'It's the Old Bill, isn't it?'"

"At that point, you don't ask questions," Hoare said.

Yet despite the relevance of the reporter's death to the scandal, police claimed Hoare's sudden demise was "unexplained but not thought to be suspicious." Really?

As the World Socialist Web Site points out: "The statement is at the very least extraordinary, and at worst sinister in its implications."

Left-wing journalist Chris Marsden wrote that "Hoare is the man who broke silence on the corrupt practices at the News of the World and, most specifically, alleged that former editor Andy Coulson, who later became Prime Minister David Cameron's director of communications, was fully aware of phone hacking that took place on an 'industrial scale'."

Aside from the secret state, what other entities are capable of intercepting phone and other electronic communications on "an industrial scale"? Given Rupert Murdoch's close ties to the political establishment on both sides of the Atlantic, is it a stretch to speculate that a "sympathetic" intelligence service wouldn't do all they could to help a "friend," particularly if cash payments were involved?

How could Hoare's death not be viewed suspiciously?

Indeed, "the morning after Hoare's body was found," Mardsen writes, "former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and his former deputy, John Yates, were to give evidence before a home affairs select committee. Stephenson had tendered his resignation Sunday and Yates Monday."

Conveniently, for those with much to hide, including police, "the death of Hoare means that his testimony will never be heard by any such inquiry or, more importantly, by any criminal investigation that may arise."

Yet, despite a pending coroner's inquest into the exact cause of the reporter's death, corporate media have rushed to judgement, labeling anyone who raise suspicions as being, what else, "conspiracy theorists."

This despite the fact, as the World Socialist Web Site reported Saturday that information has surfaced "regarding the extent of News International links to known criminals."

Indeed, on July 6 left-wing journalist Robert Stevens reported that "Labour MP Tom Watson told Parliament that News International chief executive and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks 'was present at a meeting with Scotland Yard when police officers pursuing a murder investigation provided her with evidence that her newspaper was interfering with the pursuit of justice'."

"'She was told of actions by people she paid to expose and discredit David Cook [a Detective Superintendent] and his wife Jackie Haines so that Mr. Cook would be prevented from completing an investigation into a murder'.

"Watson added," Stevens writes, that "'News International was paying people to interfere with police officers and were doing so on behalf of known criminals. We know now that News International had entered the criminal underworld'."

Although Hoare had suffered from years of alcohol and cocaine abuse, he was in rehab and by all accounts on the road to recovery. Hoare could have died from natural causes but this has not yet been established.

Pending histology and toxicology tests which will take weeks, and a coroner's inquest was adjourned July 21 until said test results were in, short of a definitive finding, nothing can nor should be ruled out, including murder, by a party or parties unknown.

While it would be a fatal exercise in rank stupidity for News Corp. to rub out Sean Hoare, would others, including police or organized crime figures caught up in the scandal and known to have been paid by News Corp. "people to interfere with police officers" and to have done so "on behalf of known criminals," have such qualms?

An Open Question

We do not know if TruePosition sold LIMS to London's Metropolitan Police, key players in the Murdoch hacking scandal, and the firm won't say who they sell to.

However, whether they did or did not is a relevant question. That security firms develop and sell privacy-killing products and then wash their hands of responsibility how and by whom their products are used--for good or ill--is hardly irrelevant to victims of police repression or private corruption by entities such as News Corp.

The issue here are the actions taken by our corporate and political minders who believe that everything in terms of smashing down walls between public and private life is up for grabs, a commodity auctioned off to the highest bidder.

While we are told by high-tech firms out to feather their nests and politicians that "law enforcement" require we turn over all our data to police to "keep us safe," the Murdoch scandal reveals precisely that it was police agencies corrupted by giant corporations which had allowed such criminal behavior to go unchecked for years.

And with Congress and Obama Justice Department officials pursuing legislation that will require mobile carriers to store and disclose cell-tower data to police and secret state agencies--all without benefit of a warrant, mind you--as well as encryption back doors built into the internet, we are reaching a point where a perfect storm threatens privacy well into the future, if not permanently.

A Looming Threat

Since LIMS 2008 introduction some 75,000 mobile towers in the U.S. have been equipped with the system, FoxNews, ironically enough, reported two years ago.

That same report informed us that "LOCINT continues to operate in Middle Eastern and Asia-Pacific nations where no legal restrictions exist for tracking cell phone signals."

TruePosition's marketing vice president Dominic Li told Fox "when you establish a geofence, anytime a mobile device enters the territory, our system will be alerted and provide a message to the customer."

Li went on to say, "we realize that this has a lot of value to law enforcement agencies outside of search and rescue missions. It gives rise to a whole host of new solutions for national security."

In keeping with the firm's penchant for secrecy, risk averse when it comes to negative publicity over the civil liberties' implications of their products, "citing security concerns," Fox reported that "company officials declined to specify which countries currently use the technology."

TruePosition claims that while wireless technology "has revolutionized communication" it has a "dark side" as "terrorists and criminals" exploit vulnerabilities to create "serious new threats to the security of nations worldwide."

Touting their ability to combine "location determination and network data mining technologies," TruePosition "offers government agencies, security experts and law enforcement officials powerful, carrier-grade security solutions with the power to defend against criminal and terrorist activity."

Never mind that most of the "serious new threats" to global citizens' rights come from unaccountable state security agencies and international financial cartels responsible for the greatest theft of resources in human history.

For interested parties such as TruePosition, "actionable intelligence" in the form of "data mining to monitor activity and behavior over time in order to build detailed profiles and identify others that they associate with," will somehow, magically one might say, lead to the apprehension of "those who threaten the safety of citizens."

Unasked is the question: who will protect us from those who develop and sell such privacy killing technologies?

Certainly not Congress which has introduced legislation "that would force Internet companies to log data about their customers," CNET News reported earlier this month.

"As a homeland security tool," Wired reported, LIMS is "enticing." Brian Varano, TruePosition's marketing director told Spencer Ackerman to "imagine an 'invisible barrier around sensitive sites like critical infrastructure,' such as oil refineries or power plants."

"The barrier contains a list of known phones belonging to people who work there, allowing them to pass freely through the covered radius. 'If any phone enters that is not on the authorized list, [authorities] are immediately notified,'" Varano told Wired.

While TruePosition's technology may be useful when it comes to protecting nuclear installations and other critical infrastructure from unauthorized breaches and may be an important tool for investigators tracking down drug gangs, human traffickers, kidnappers and stalkers, as we have learned from the Murdoch scandal and the illegal driftnet surveillance of Americans, the potential that governments and private entities will abuse such powerful tools is also likely.

According to Wired while "TruePosition sells to mobile carriers," the company is "cagey about whether the U.S. government uses its products." Abroad however, Ackerman writes, "it sells to governments, which it won't name. Ever since it came out with LOCINT in 2008," Varano said that "'Ministries of Defense and Interior from around the world began beating down our door'."

That technological "quick fixes" such as LOCINT can augment the power of secret state agencies to "easily identify and monitor networks of dissidents," doesn't seem to trouble the firm in the least.

In fact, such concerns don't even enter the equation. As Wired reported, the company "saw a growth market in a field" where such products would have extreme relevance: "the expanding, globalized field of homeland security."

"It really was recession-proof," Varano explained to Ackerman, "because in many parts of the world, the defense and security budgets have either maintained where they were or increased by a large percentage."

Small comfort to victims of globalized surveillance and repression that in many places, including so-called "Western democracies," are already an ubiquitous part of the political landscape.

Consider the ease with which police can deploy LIMS for monitoring dissidents, say anticapitalist activists, union leaders or citizen organizers fighting against the wholesale theft of publicly-owned infrastructure to well-connected corporations (Greece, Ireland or Spain for example) by governments knuckling-under to IMF/ECB demands for so-called "deficit reduction" schemes.

As Stephen Graham points out in his seminal book Cities Under Siege, "as the everyday spaces and systems of urban everyday life are colonized by militarized control technologies" and "notions of policing and war, domestic and foreign, peace and war become less distinct, there emerges a massive boom in a convergent industrial complex encompassing security, surveillance, military technology, prisons, corrections, and electronic entertainment."

"It is no accident," Graham writes, "that security-industrial complexes blossom in parallel with the diffusion of market fundamentalist notions for organizing social, economic and political life."

Creating a climate of fear is key to those who seek to manage daily life. Thus the various media-driven panics surrounding nebulous, open-ended "wars" on "deficits," "drugs," "terror" and now "cyber-crime."

That firms such as TruePosition and hundreds of others who step in to capitalize on the highly-profitable "homeland security" market, hope to continue flying under the radar, we would do well to recall U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who strongly admonished us that "sunlight is the best disinfectant."

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Security Grifters Partner-Up on Sinister Cyber-Surveillance Project

Last week, the White House released its National Strategy for Counterterrorism, a macabre document that places a premium on "public safety" over civil liberties and constitutional rights.

Indeed, "hope and change" huckster Barack Obama had the temerity to assert that the President "bears no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety and security of the American people."

Pity that others, including CIA "black site" prisoners tortured to death to "keep us safe" (some 100 at last count) aren't extended the same courtesy as The Washington Post reported last week.

As Secrecy News editor Steven Aftergood correctly points out, the claim that the President "has no greater responsibility than 'protecting the American people' is a paternalistic invention that is historically unfounded and potentially damaging to the political heritage of the nation."

Aftergood avers, "the presidential oath of office that is prescribed by the U.S. Constitution (Art. II, sect. 1) makes it clear that the President's supreme responsibility is to '...preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.' There is no mention of public safety. It is the constitutional order that the President is sworn to protect, even if doing so entails risks to the safety and security of the American people."

But as our former republic slips ever-closer towards corporate dictatorship, Obama's mendacious twaddle about "protecting the American people," serves only to obscure, and reinforce, the inescapable fact that it's a rigged game.

Rest assured, "what happens in Vegas," Baghdad, Kabul or Manama--from driftnet spying to political-inspired witchhunts to illegal detention--won't, and hasn't, "stayed in Vegas."

Cyber Here, Cyber There, Cyber-Surveillance Everywhere

Last month, researcher Barrett Brown and the OpMetalGear network lifted the lid on a new U.S. Government-sponsored cyber-surveillance project, Romas/COIN, now Odyssey, a multiyear, multimillion dollar enterprise currently run by defense and security giant Northrop Grumman.

With some $10.8 billion in revenue largely derived from contracts with the Defense Department, Northrop Grumman was No. 2 on the Washington Technology 2011 Top 100 List of Prime Federal Contractors.

"For at least two years," Brown writes, "the U.S. has been conducting a secretive and immensely sophisticated campaign of mass surveillance and data mining against the Arab world, allowing the intelligence community to monitor the habits, conversations, and activity of millions of individuals at once."

Information on this shadowy program was derived by scrutinizing hundreds of the more than 70,000 HBGary emails leaked onto the web by the cyber-guerrilla collective Anonymous.

Brown uncovered evidence that the "top contender to win the federal contract and thus take over the program is a team of about a dozen companies which were brought together in large part by Aaron Barr--the same disgraced CEO who resigned from his own firm earlier this year after he was discovered to have planned a full-scale information war against political activists at the behest of corporate clients."

Readers will recall that Barr claimed he could exploit social media to gather information about WikiLeaks supporters in a bid to destroy that organization. Earlier this year, Barr told the Financial Times he had used scraping techniques and had infiltrated WikiLeaks supporter Anonymous, in part by using IRC, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

According to emails subsequently released by Anonymous, it was revealed that the ultra rightist U.S. Chamber of Commerce had hired white shoe law firm Hunton & Williams, and that Hunton attorneys, upon recommendation of an unnamed U.S. Department of Justice official, solicited a set of private security contractors--HBGary, HBGary Federal, Palantir and Berico Technologies (collectively known as Team Themis)--and stitched-up a sabotage campaign against WikiLeaks, journalists, labor unions, progressive political groups and Chamber critics.

Amongst the firms who sought to grab the Romas/COIN/Odyssey contract from Northrop when it came up for a "recompete" was TASC, which describes itself as "a renowned provider of advanced systems engineering, integration and decision-support services across the intelligence, defense, homeland security and federal markets."

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, TASC's head of "Cybersecurity Initiatives," Larry Strang, was formerly a Vice President with Northrop Grumman who led that firm's Cybersecurity Group and served as Northrop's NSA Account Manager. Prior to that, Strang, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, was Vice President for Operations at the spooky Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

Brown relates that emails between TASC executives Al Pisani, John Lovegrow and former HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr, provided details that they "were in talks with each other as well as Mantech executive Bob Frisbie on a 'recompete' pursuant to 'counter intelligence' operations that were already being conducted on behalf of the federal government by another firm, SAIC, with which they hoped to compete for contracts."

In fact, HBGary Federal and TASC may have been cats-paws for defense giant ManTech International in the race to secure U.S. Government cyber-surveillance contracts. Clocking in at No. 22 on Washington Technology's "2011 Top 100 list," ManTech earned some $1.46 billion in 2010, largely derived from work in "systems engineering and integration, technology and software development, enterprise security architecture, intelligence operations support, critical infrastructure protection and computer forensics." The firm's major customers include the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon's geek squad that is busily working to develop software for their Cyber Insider Threat (CINDER) program.

Both HBGary Federal and parent company HBGary, a California-based security firm run by the husband-wife team, Greg Hoglund and Penny Leavy, had been key players for the design of malware, undetectable rootkits and other "full directory exfiltration tools over TCP/IP" for the Defense Department according to documents released by the secret-shredding web site Public Intelligence.

Additional published documents revealed that they and had done so in close collaboration with General Dynamics (Project C and Task Z), which had requested "multiple protocols to be scoped as viable options ... for VoIP (Skype) protocol, BitTorrent protocol, video over HTTP (port 80), and HTTPS (port 443)" for unnamed secret state agencies.

According to Brown, it appears that Romas/COIN/Odyssey was also big on social media surveillance, especially when it came to "Foreign Mobile" and "Foreign Web" monitoring. Indeed, documents published by Public Intelligence (scooped-up by the HBGary-Anonymous hack) was a ManTech International-HBGary collaboration describing plans for Internet Based Reconnaissance Operations. The October 2010 presentation described plans that would hand "customers," presumably state intelligence agencies but also, as revealed by Anonymous, corporate security entities and public relations firms, the means to perform "native language searching" combined with "non-attributable architecture" and a "small footprint" that can be "as widely or narrowly focused as needed."

ManTech and HBGary promised to provide customers the ability to "Locate/Profile Internet 'Points of Interest'" on "individuals, companies, ISPs" and "organizations," and would do so through "detailed network mapping" that will "identify registered networks and registered domains"; "Graphical network representation based on Active Hosts"; "Operating system and network application identification"; "Identification of possible perimeter defenses" through "Technology Research, Intelligence Gap Fill, Counterintelligence Research" and "Customer Public Image Assessment."

The presentation described the social media monitoring process as one that would "employ highly skilled network professionals (read, ex-spooks and former military intelligence operatives) who will use "Non-attributable Internet access, custom developed toolsets and techniques, Native Language and in-country techniques" that "utilize foreign language search engines, mapping tools" and "iterative researching methodologies" for searching "Websites, picture sites, mapping sites/programs"; "Blogs and social networking sites"; "Forums and Bulletin Boards"; "Network Information: Whois, Trace Route, NetTroll, DNS"; "Archived and cached websites."

Clients who bought into the ManTech-HBGary "product" were promised "Rapid Non-attributable Open Source Research Results"; "Sourced Research Findings"; "Triage level Analysis"; "Vulnerability Assessment" and "Graphical Network and Social Diagramming" via data mining and extensive link analysis.

Undoubtedly, readers recall this is precisely what the National Security Agency has been doing since the 1990s, if not earlier, through their electronic communications intercept program Echelon, a multibillion Pentagon project that conducted corporate espionage for American multinational firms as researcher Nicky Hager revealed in his 1997 piece for CovertAction Quarterly.

Other firms included in Lovegrove's email to Barr indicate that the new Romas/COIN/Odyssey "team" was to have included: "TASC (PMO [Project Management Operations], creative services); HBGary (Strategy, planning, PMO); Akamai (infrastructure); Archimedes Global (Specialized linguistics, strategy, planning); Acclaim Technical Services (specialized linguistics); Mission Essential Personnel (linguistic services); Cipher (strategy, planning operations); PointAbout (rapid mobile application development, list of strategic partners); Google (strategy, mobile application and platform development--long list of strategic partners); Apple (mobile and desktop platform, application assistance--long list of strategic partners). We are trying to schedule an interview with ATT plus some other small app developers."

Recall that AT&T is the NSA's prime telecommunications partner in that agency's illegal driftnet surveillance program and has been the recipient of "retroactive immunity" under the despicable FISA Amendments Act, a law supported by then-Senator Barack Obama. Also recall that the giant tech firm Apple was recently mired in scandal over reports that their mobile phone platform had, without their owners' knowledge or consent, speared geolocational data from the iPhone and then stored this information in an Apple-controlled data base accessible to law enforcement through various "lawful interception" schemes.

"Whatever the exact nature and scope of COIN," Brown writes, "the firms that had been assembled for the purpose by Barr and TASC never got a chance to bid on the program's recompete. In late September, Lovegrove noted to Barr and others that he'd spoken to the 'CO [contracting officer] for COIN'." The TASC executive told Barr that "the current procurement approach" was cancelled, citing "changed requirements."

Apparently the Pentagon, or other unspecified secret state satrapy told the contestants that "an updated RFI [request for information]" will be issued soon. According to a later missive from Lovegrove to Barr, "COIN has been replaced by a procurement called Odyssey." While it is still not entirely clear what Romas/COIN or the Odyssey program would do once deployed, Brown claims that "mobile phone software and applications constitute a major component of the program."

And given Barr's monomaniacal obsession with social media surveillance (that worked out well with Anonymous!) the presence of Alterian and SocialEyez on the procurement team may indicate that the secret state is alarmed by the prospect that the "Arab Spring" just might slip from proverbial "safe hands" and threaten Gulf dictatorships and Saudi Arabia with the frightening specter of democratic transformation.

Although the email from TASC executive Chris Clair to John Lovegrow names "Alterion" as a company to contact because of their their "SM2 tool," in all likelihood this is a typo given the fact that it is the UK-based firm "Alterian" that has developed said SM2 tool, described on their web site as a "business intelligence product that provides visibility into social media and lets you tap into a new kind of data resource; your customers' direct thoughts and opinions."

This would be a highly-profitable partnership indeed for enterprising intelligence agencies and opaque corporate partners intent on monitoring political developments across the Middle East.

In fact, a 2010 press release, announced that Alterian had forged a partnership with the Dubai-based firm SocialEyez for "the world's first social media monitoring service designed for the Arab market."

We're informed that SocialEyez, a division of Media Watch Middle East, described as "the leading media monitoring service in the Middle East," offers services in "television, radio, social media, online news and internet monitoring across most sectors including commercial, government and PR."

That Barr and his partners were interested in bringing these firms to the Romas/COIN table is not surprising considering that the Alterian/SocialEyez deal promises "to develop and launch an Arabic language interface for Alterian SM2 to make it the world's first Arab language social media monitoring tool." Inquiring minds can't help but wonder which three-lettered American agencies alongside a stable of "corporate and government clients, including leading Blue Chips" might be interested in "maximising their social media monitoring investment"?

Pentagon "Manhunters" in the House

On an even more sinister note, the inclusion of Archimedes Global on the Romas/COIN team should set alarm bells ringing.

Archimedes is a small, privately-held niche security firm headquartered in Tampa, Florida where, surprise, surprise, U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) has it's main headquarters at the MacDill Air Force Base. On their web site, Archimedes describes itself as "a diversified technology company providing energy and information solutions to government and businesses worldwide." The firm claims that it "delivers solutions" to its clients by "combining deep domain expertise, multi-disciplinary education and training, and technology-enabled innovations."

While short on information regarding what it actually does, evidence suggests that the firm is chock-a-block with former spooks and Special Forces operators, skilled in the black arts of counterintelligence, various information operations, subversion and, let's be frank, tasks euphemistically referred to in the grisly trade as "wet work."

According to The Washington Post, the firm was established in 2005. However, although the Post claims in their "Top Secret America" series that the number of employees and revenue is "unknown," Dana Priest and William M. Arkin note that Archimedes have five government clients and are have speared contracts relating to "Ground forces operations," "Human intelligence," Psychological operations," and "Specialized military operations."

Brown relates that Archimedes was slated to provide "Specialized linguistics, strategy, planning" for the proposed Romas/COIN/Odyssey project for an unknown U.S. Government entity.

Based on available evidence however, one can speculate that Archimedes may have been chosen as part of the HBGary Federal/TASC team precisely because of their previous work as private contractors in human intelligence (HUMINT), running spies and infiltrating assets into organizations of interest to the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) throughout the Middle East, Central- and South Asia.

In 2009, Antifascist Calling revealed that one of Archimedes Global's senior directors, retired Air Force Lt. Colonel George A. Crawford, published a chilling monograph, Manhunting: Counter-Network Organizing for Irregular Warfare, for the highly-influential Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

JSOU is the "educational component" of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). With a mission that touts its ability to "plan and synchronize operations" against America's geopolitical adversaries and rivals, JSOU's Strategic Studies Department "advances SOF strategic influence by its interaction in academic, interagency, and United States military communities."

Accordingly, Archimedes "information and risk" brief claim they can 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 information operations (INFOOPS) would find a friendly home inside the Romas/COIN contract team.

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. Crawford writes:

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)

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

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 informs us:

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)

Alongside actual shooters, "sensitive site exploitation (SSE) teams are critical operational components for Pentagon "manhunters." We're told that 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."

As if to drive home the point that the target of such sinister operations are the American people and world public opinion, Crawford, ever the consummate INFOOPS 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)

While we do not as yet have a complete picture of the Romas/COIN/Odyssey project, some preliminary conclusions can be drawn.

"Altogether, then," Brown writes, "a successful bid for the relevant contract was seen to require the combined capabilities of perhaps a dozen firms--capabilities whereby millions of conversations can be monitored and automatically analyzed, whereby a wide range of personal data can be obtained and stored in secret, and whereby some unknown degree of information can be released to a given population through a variety of means and without any hint that the actual source is U.S. military intelligence."

Although Brown's initial research concluded that Romas/COIN/Odyssey will operate "in conjunction with other surveillance and propaganda assets controlled by the U.S. and its partners," with a firm like Archimedes on-board, once information has been assembled on individuals described in other contexts as "radicals" or "key extremists," will they subsequently be made to "disappear" into the hands of "friendly" security services such as those of strategic U.S. partners Bahrain and Saudi Arabia?

We're reminded that "Barr was also at the center of a series of conspiracies by which his own company and two others hired out their collective capabilities for use by corporations that sought to destroy their political enemies by clandestine and dishonest means."

Indeed, "none of the companies involved," Brown writes, have been investigated; a proposed Congressional inquiry was denied by the committee chair, noting that it was the Justice Department's decision as to whether to investigate, even though it was the Justice Department itself that made the initial introductions. Those in the intelligence contracting industry who believe themselves above the law are entirely correct."

Brown warns that "a far greater danger is posed by the practice of arming small and unaccountable groups of state and military personnel with a set of tools by which to achieve better and better 'situational awareness' on entire populations" while simultaneously manipulating "the information flow in such a way as to deceive those same populations."

Beginning, it should be noted, right here at home...

(Image courtesy of The Tech Herald)