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The crux of the NSA story in one phrase: 'collect it all'
The actual story that matters is not hard to see: the NSA is attempting to collect, monitor and store all forms of human communication

What does "collect it all" mean? Exactly what it says; the Post explains how Alexander took a "collect it all" surveillance approach originally directed at Iraqis in the middle of a war, and thereafter transferred it so that it is now directed at the US domestic population as well as the global one [...]

The NSA is constantly seeking to expand its capabilities without limits. They're currently storing so much, and preparing to store so much more, that they have to build a massive, sprawling new facility in Utah just to hold all the communications from inside the US and around the world that they are collecting - communications they then have the physical ability to invade any time they want ("Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it").

That is the definition of a ubiquitous surveillance state - and it's been built in the dark, without the knowledge of the American people or people around the world, even though it's aimed at them. How anyone could think this should have all remained concealed - that it would have been better had it just been left to fester and grow in the dark - is truly mystifying.

A long, 4-page article in the Washington Post profiling NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander and the "collect it all" mission that he has overseen.  The article says that Alexander's "sensibilities" were "shaped by a series of painful intelligence lapses leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks".  I'm not sure how the authors  know that.  The intelligence industrial complex is hard to separate from the military-industrial complex.  Gen. Hayden headed the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and then went directly into the intelligence contracting industry where he, no doubt, has become a very wealthy man along with others, like Michael Chertoff.  Can we say that the people behind the massive growth of the military-industrial complex were motivated simply by 9/11? Was the war in Iraq motivated by 9/11 and national security?  Is the current growth more driven by obsession, wealth and power?
For NSA chief, terrorist threat drives passion to ‘collect it all,’ observers say

At the time, more than 100 teams of U.S. analysts were scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might lead to the bomb-makers and their hidden factories. But the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency’s powerful computers.

“Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ ” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. “Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”
[...]
Like many national security officials of his generation, Alexander’s sensibilities were shaped by a series of painful intelligence lapses leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.
[...]
“He is absolutely obsessed and completely driven to take it all, whenever possible,” said Thomas Drake, a former NSA official and whistleblower. The continuation of Alexander’s policies, Drake said, would result in the “complete evisceration of our civil liberties.”

[...] But even his defenders say Alexander’s aggressiveness has sometimes taken him to the outer edge of his legal authority.
[...]
In 2010, he became the first head of U.S. Cyber Command, set up to defend Defense Department networks against hackers and, when authorized, conduct attacks on adversaries. Pentagon officials and Alexander say the command’s mission is also to defend the nation against cyberattacks.

“He is the only man in the land that can promote a problem by virtue of his intelligence hat and then promote a solution by virtue of his military hat,” said one former Pentagon official, voicing a concern that the lines governing the two authorities are not clearly demarcated and that Alexander can evade effective public oversight as a result.
[...]
But just as in Iraq, he remains fiercely committed to the belief that “we need to get it all,” said Timothy Edgar, a former privacy officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and at the White House.

In his own words: Confessions of a cyber warrior
A longtime friend working as a cyber warrior under contract to the U.S. government provides a glimpse of the front lines

Much of the world is just learning that every major industrialized nation has a state-sponsored cyber army -- though many of the groups, including team USA, have been around for decades.

I've met a few cyber warriors. As you might imagine, they can't talk much about their duties. But if you work shoulder to shoulder with them long enough, certain patterns emerge. For starters, there are a lot of them. They are well armed with cyber weaponry, and they're allowed to experiment and hack in ways that, as we all now know, might be considered illegal in some circles.

Grimes: What did you like hacking the most: security systems or computer systems?

Cyber warrior: Actually, I loved hacking airwaves the most.

[...]

Grimes: What do you like hacking now?

Cyber warrior: Funny enough, it's a lot of wireless stuff again: public equipment that everyone uses, plus a lot of military stuff that the general public knows nothing about. It's mostly hardware and controller hacking. But even that equipment is easy to exploit.
[...]
Grimes: What does your work location look like?

Cyber warrior:  I work in obscure office park in Northern Virginia. It's close to DC. There's no lettering or identifiers on the building. We park our cars in an underground garage. There are about 5,000 people on my team. I still work for the same staffing company I was hired by. My badge does not say "U.S. government" on it. We are not allowed to bring any computers, electronics, or storage USB drives into the building. They aren't even allowed in our cars, so I'm the guy at lunch without a cellphone. If people were to look around, they could spot us. Look for the group of people being loud that don't have a single cellphone out -- no one texting. Heck, they should let us carry cellphones just so we don't look so obvious.
[...]
Cyber warrior: I wish we spent as much time defensively as we do offensively. We have these thousands and thousands of people in coordinate teams trying to exploit stuff. But we don't have any large teams that I know of for defending ourselves. In the real world, armies spend as much time defending as they do preparing for attacks. We are pretty one-sided in the battle right now.

Trayvon Martin: protesters take to the streets
Demonstrators condemn George Zimmerman's acquittal as black community leaders call for a civil rights case

Protesters have taken to the streets in the US as black community leaders demanded that the authorities pursue a federal civil rights case against George Zimmerman, who shot dead Trayvon Martin but was acquitted of the teenager's murder.

In Los Angeles, police fired non-lethal – bean bag – baton rounds after demonstrators threw rocks and batteries at officers. One person was arrested but police emphasised that most of the protesters were peaceful. Streets were closed off in the city, as well as in San Francisco, where people marched to condemn Zimmerman's acquittal.

In New York, hundreds of protesters marched into Times Square on Sunday night after starting out in Union Square, zigzagging through the streets to avoid police lines. Marchers carried signs and chanted "Justice for Trayvon Martin!" and "No justice, no peace!" as tourists looked on. Beyoncé called for a moment of silence for Trayvon during a concert in Nashville, Tennessee, while rapper Young Jeezy released a song in Trayvon's memory. Protests have been relatively small in scale so far, easing fears that violent unrest would follow the widespread outrage over the verdict.

Chris Hedges
Locking Out the Voices of Dissent

NEW YORK—The security and surveillance state, after crushing the Occupy movement and eradicating its encampments, has mounted a relentless and largely clandestine campaign to deny public space to any group or movement that might spawn another popular uprising. The legal system has been grotesquely deformed in most cities to, in essence, shut public space to protesters, eradicating our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. The goal of the corporate state is to criminalize democratic, popular dissent before there is another popular eruption. The vast state surveillance system, detailed in Edward Snowden’s revelations to the British newspaper The Guardian, at the same time ensures that no action or protest can occur without the advanced knowledge of our internal security apparatus. This foreknowledge has allowed the internal security systems to proactively block activists from public spaces as well as carry out pre-emptive harassment, interrogation, intimidation, detention and arrests before protests can begin. There is a word for this type of political system—tyranny.

Surveillance Blowback: The Making of the U.S. Surveillance State, 1898-2020

The American surveillance state is now an omnipresent reality, [...]  Its future (though not ours) looks bright indeed.

In 1898, Washington occupied the Philippines and in the years that followed pacified its rebellious people, in part by fashioning the world’s first full-scale “surveillance state” in a colonial land.  [...]  A half-century later, as protests mounted during the Vietnam War, the FBI, building on the foundations of that old security structure, launched large-scale illegal counterintelligence operations to harass antiwar activists, while President Richard Nixon’s White House created its own surveillance apparatus to target its domestic enemies.
[...]
Today, as Washington withdraws troops from the Greater Middle East, a sophisticated intelligence apparatus built for the pacification of Afghanistan and Iraq has come home to help create a twenty-first century surveillance state of unprecedented scope. But the past pattern that once checked the rise of a U.S. surveillance state seems to be breaking down.  [...]  In what has become a permanent state of “wartime” at home, the Obama administration is building upon the surveillance systems created in the Bush years to maintain U.S. global dominion in peace or war through a strategic, ever-widening edge in information control.  The White House shows no sign -- nor does Congress -- of cutting back on construction of a powerful, global Panopticon that can surveil domestic dissidents, track terrorists, manipulate allied nations, monitor rival powers, counter hostile cyber strikes, launch preemptive cyberattacks, and protect domestic communications.
[...]
Facing a decade of determined Filipino resistance, the U.S. Army applied all those American information innovations -- rapid telegraphy, photographic files, alpha-numeric coding, and Gamewell police communications -- to the creation of a formidable, three-tier colonial security apparatus including the Manila Police, the Philippines Constabulary, and above all the Army’s Division of Military Information.

In early 1901, Captain Ralph Van Deman, later dubbed “the father of U.S. Military Intelligence,” assumed command of this still embryonic division, the Army’s first field intelligence unit in its 100-year history. With a voracious appetite for raw data, Van Deman’s division compiled phenomenally detailed information on thousands of Filipino leaders, including their physical appearance, personal finances, landed property, political loyalties, and kinship networks.
[...]
During the U.S. conquest of the Philippines, Mark Twain wrote an imagined history of twentieth-century America.  In it, he predicted that a “lust for conquest” had already destroyed “the Great [American] Republic,” because  “trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home.”

Secret Pentagon policy may delay responses to Freedom of Information Act requests

The Pentagon’s FOIA review policy was initially revealed by the IG to Congress in 2010 in response to an inquiry concerning the politicization of FOIA.  The IG did not comment on this policy or on DoD’s FOIA practices; it merely forwarded documents to Congress.  Notably, neither the IG nor the Pentagon has proactively disclosed any of this information to the public.

This secrecy is especially troubling with respect to DFOIPO in light of its mission. Not only is this policy document omitted from a long list of “FOIA Policy Guidance” on DFOIPO’s Web site, but none of DFOIPO’s other publicly available FOIA material even mention this Department-wide policy.  Those documents include DoD’s “Freedom of Information Act Handbook,” its annual FOIA reports to the Department of Justice, as well as a bi-annual newsletter “DoD FOIA News.”  This is hardly the stuff of which transparent administrations are made, let alone one that claims to be the most transparent in history.

U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News To Americans

For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government's mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts. So what just happened?
[...]
The restriction of these broadcasts was due to the Smith-Mundt Act, a long standing piece of legislation that has been amended numerous times over the years, perhaps most consequentially by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. In the 70s, Fulbright was no friend of VOA and Radio Free Europe, and moved to restrict them from domestic distribution, saying they "should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics." Fulbright's amendment to Smith-Mundt was bolstered in 1985 by Nebraska Senator Edward Zorinsky who argued that such "propaganda" should be kept out of America as to distinguish the U.S. "from the Soviet Union where domestic propaganda is a principal government activity."

Zorinsky and Fulbright sold their amendments on sensible rhetoric: American taxpayers shouldn't be funding propaganda for American audiences. So did Congress just tear down the American public's last defense against domestic propaganda?
[...]
Lynne added that the reform has a transparency benefit as well. "Now Americans will be able to know more about what they are paying for with their tax dollars - greater transparency is a win-win for all involved," she said. And so with that we have the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which passed as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, and went into effect this month.

German spies made use of U.S. surveillance data: paper

(Reuters) - Germany's foreign intelligence agency (BND) has known about U.S. surveillance and storage of German data for years and used it in cases of Germans kidnapped abroad, the mass-circulation daily Bild reported on Monday.
Questions over how much the German government and its own security agencies knew about U.S. surveillance have touched a raw nerve in Germany, given historical memories of spying on citizens by former communist East Germany and the Nazi regime.
[...]
Citing U.S. government sources, Bild said the BND had asked the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) for the email and telephone records of German citizens kidnapped in Yemen or Afghanistan to help ascertain their whereabouts and contacts.

Seriously creepy.
Attention, Shoppers: Store Is Tracking Your Cell

Like dozens of other brick-and-mortar retailers, Nordstrom wanted to learn more about its customers — how many came through the doors, how many were repeat visitors — the kind of information that e-commerce sites like Amazon have in spades. So last fall the company started testing new technology that allowed it to track customers’ movements by following the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones.



Action



PETITION WRITTEN BY DANIEL ELLSBERG, THE WHISTLEBLOWER BEHIND THE PENTAGON PAPERS

We need a new Church Committee that is fully empowered to investigate the abuses of the NSA and make public its findings, and that is charged with recommending new laws to ensure the U.S. government does not violate our constitutional rights.

Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.

Massive Spying Program Exposed
Demand Answers Now (EFF petition)


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Roberta Flack - Killing Me Softly

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