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Huffington Post is now breaking Snowden files stories. This story is by Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Grim and Ryan Gallagher.

Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit 'Radicalizers'

WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as “exemplars” of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target's credibility, reputation and authority.
"Without discussing specific individuals, it should not be surprising that the US Government uses all of the lawful tools at our disposal to impede the efforts of valid terrorist targets who seek to harm the nation and radicalize others to violence," Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for National Intelligence, told The Huffington Post in an email Tuesday.

Yet Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said these revelations give rise to serious concerns about abuse. "It's important to remember that the NSA’s surveillance activities are anything but narrowly focused -- the agency is collecting massive amounts of sensitive information about virtually everyone," he said.

NSA Monitored Porn Habits To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’
Latest revelations from Snowden leaks

The National Security Agency has been spying on online sexual activity – including visits to pornography websites – as part of a proposed plan to discredit a handful of people the agency believes are “radicalizing” others, according to a new report.

Weird to see the Guardian following HuffPo.
NSA 'collected details of online sexual activity' of Islamist radicals
Document leaked by Edward Snowden shows agency sought out 'vulnerabilities' such as looking at explicit material online

The article was written by the former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who met the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in May and was given a large cache of leaked documents.

One of the documents says the aim is to look at "six prominent, globally resonating foreign radicalisers", the audiences they reach and potential vulnerabilities.

It says: "Communications profiles of these English-language radicalisers reveal that very few of contacts noted were associated with terrorism, suggesting that the target audience includes individuals who do not yet hold extremist views but who are susceptible to the extremist message."

Here's a piece in the NYT about Level 3, the fiber optic trunk company who runs lines between Google and Yahoo data centers.  The government made us do it!  Thing is, telecoms were very cooperative until the mid 2000's when they started to get worried about liability and our Congress, including Obama who had promised not to vote for the FISA Amendments Act in 2008, gave them an unprecedented retroactive immunity.  Seems that everything was cool until there was some sunlight. Now there is glaring sunlight and their tune is "they made us do it!"

And Keith Alexander has been using the word "compelled" a lot too, trying to take some heat off of Google, Yahoo and American tech companies.  This article tries to absolve Google and Yahoo et al as well, in a more subtle way, saying that the NSA goes and gets their data anyway via Level 3, and the implication is not to blame the tech companies.  I'm not sure how this is supposed to help American companies in general.  The core issue is that NSA is hoovering up all the data.  Level 3 notes that they comply with govt orders to do such things in any country where they are compelled. Again, I suppose this is supposed to make customers sigh and say "oh well, no matter what services I use, governments will be stealing my data and spying on me, alas, I should just accept it and be a good boy or girl so I'll have nothing to worry about".  

But the damage is done and I think that most people are much less worried about the government of Ecuador or even France hoovering up their data than they are about the NSA and the US government doing it. One reason for that might be that the US has declared the world as a battlefield and goes around blowing people up in sovereign countries, and shit like that.  The blowback comes in many forms.  The media has started to do a lot more reports on how the NSA is ruinous for American business.  You'd think that American business would have anticipated this, but apparently everybody had faith in the secrecy.  It's pretty hard to believe that there isn't some significant money in it for them too.  And maybe they get mesmerized like members of Congress do about being party of the US intelligence machine, or feel they are being patriotic, told they are helping to fight the terrorists.  When all else fails, perhaps Keith Alexander takes them to his old Star Wars operations center with the metal paneling and doors that go "whoosh" and lets them sit in the captain's chair.

N.S.A. May Have Hit Internet Companies at a Weak Spot

The Internet companies’ data centers are locked down with full-time security and state-of-the-art surveillance, including heat sensors and iris scanners. But between the data centers — on Level 3’s fiber-optic cables that connected those massive computer farms — information was unencrypted and an easier target for government intercept efforts, according to three people with knowledge of Google’s and Yahoo’s systems who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In 2002, John M. Poindexter, former national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan, proposed the Total Information Awareness plan, an effort to scan the world’s electronic information — including phone calls, emails and financial and travel records. That effort was scrapped in 2003 after a public outcry over potential privacy violations.

The technologies Mr. Poindexter proposed are similar to what became reality years later in N.S.A. surveillance programs like Prism and Bullrun.
“From Echelon to Total Information Awareness to Prism, all these programs have gone under different names, but in essence do the same thing,” said Chip Pitts, a law lecturer at Stanford University School of Law.
Level 3 did not directly respond to an inquiry about whether it had given the N.S.A., or the agency’s foreign intelligence partners, access to Google and Yahoo’s data. In a statement, Level 3 said: “It is our policy and our practice to comply with laws in every country where we operate, and to provide government agencies access to customer data only when we are compelled to do so by the laws in the country where the data is located.”

Emptywheel.  I recommend listening to this to hear the debate that Emptywheel is referring to where they talk about how other regimes that had a massive spying apparatus were later discovered (in writings about conversations found and published later) to have expressed noble and patriotic motives for it.  Gellman actually behaves like an apologist here about their motives.  You can hear him beginning to speak about it around the 17 minute mark and the debate goes on after that, but Chomsky had begun to talk about it and make comparisons to our own and other governments prior to that which is why Gellman makes these statements.  Chomsky notes that governments do this for their own interests, and their own interests are not security but that they claim, and perhaps believe, that it's all for the benefit of the people.  At the 25 minute mark, Gellman really starts the apologist meme.
Chomsky v. Gellman on the Stasi

For what it’s worth, I think they agree that the Stasi was far more “monstrous” (Chomsky’s term) than the US and NSA. Chomsky’s point is that Americans are making the same argument in defending the dragnet that many apparatchiks in monstrous regimes also made in complete good faith. Whereas Gellman argues that the scale is so different that such comparisons risk distracting the discussion.

All that said, I wanted to focus on this line from Gellman (at 25:00).

Stasi was knowingly, deliberately, consciously discovering and squashing dissent, blackmailing people, arresting people, preventing the emergence of any kind of opposition force, I don’t think that’s what we’re seeing here at all.
I agree with it generally — the NSA is not squashing all dissent (which is not to say other domestic agencies don’t harass dissenters in organized fashion, possibly employing NSA-related data several steps removed).

But I’m not Muslim or Arab, and I’m not sure I’d be as quick to say the same about the effect of the dragnet — and associated actions — on those communities. [...]

I listened to this interview again.  It strikes me that some of the things that Giroux wants to do and wants to talk about are off limits on dkos, supposedly the biggest, most powerful Democratic community blog.
Henry Giroux on 'Zombie' Politics

Why Politics Fails

Blair and Brown purged the party of any residue of opposition to corporations and the people who run them. That’s what New Labour was all about. Now opposition MPs stare mutely as their powers are given away to a system of offshore arbitration panels run by corporate lawyers.

Since Blair’s pogroms, parliament operates much as Congress in the United States does: the lefthand glove puppet argues with the righthand glove puppet, but neither side will turn around to face the corporate capital that controls almost all our politics. This is why the assertion that parliamentary democracy has been reduced to a self-important farce has resonated so widely over the past fortnight.

So I don’t blame people for giving up on politics. I haven’t given up yet, but I find it ever harder to explain why. When a state-corporate nexus of power has bypassed democracy and made a mockery of the voting process, when an unreformed political funding system ensures that parties can be bought and sold, when politicians of the three main parties stand and watch as public services are divvied up by a grubby cabal of privateers, what is left of this system that inspires us to participate?

I don't know what to make of this.  Definitely watch the video to see for yourself.  Imitiation is the greatest form of flattery, yes.  But American version of the "Yes we can" music video... I don't know if that was created through true inspiration or if it was all part of the marketing campaign.  People allowed themselves to put aside their cynicism and doubts and allowed themselves to believe in Obama, while he was just a corporate funded illusion, a product of the 1%.  Rouhani is impressive, no doubt.  He might be the real thing who is imitating things that he was inspired by or things that he knows will be successful in influencing the younger generations and given that Iran's population is overwhelmingly young, that's important.  Or he might also be owned by the 1% whose greatest challenge is to keep the 99% from rising up and crushing them.  Hell, he might be an American product for all we know.  The thing that keeps me from concluding that without much analysis is that we've seen Western culture spread like this all over the world before, for decades.  And the Obama sensation was very compelling. It's not surprising to see a politician imitate it.  If he is a "product" then could somebody please tip off Netanyahu and the Saudis and get them to stop threatening nuclear war and shit like that?

Still, just a hypothetical: our propaganda machine is innovative sometimes but it's also pretty obvious at other times, using and reusing things they know have worked in the past.  There have been times when I've read what I think is obvious planted material in the media, for example any of the articles that glorified John Brennan, probably a product of the CIA propaganda mill, or some of the terra terra terra and thought to myself, Jesus, they're using this kind of thing again?  It's hard to distinguish between the corporate and the state anymore though so I don't know if it's as easy to just pin something on the CIA propaganda machine.  Just some thoughts.  And some will find this maddening when I say things like this but, with eyes wide open, I'm still hoping that Rouhani is the real thing, mostly because he's the best chance for some kind of peace in the Middle East that I've seen in a long time.  

Iranian President Rouhani now has his own ‘Yes, We Can’ music video

Now Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in August on a moderate and reform-tinged agenda, has his own version of the "Yes We Can" music video. It's called "Aspirations," and it's pretty much a carbon copy of the 2008 Obama video, right down to the swelling music and the use of sign language, except that the performers are Iranian and they're singing in Farsi. Oh, and the speech they're reciting is not a campaign speech but Rouhani's Aug. 3 inauguration speech, after formally accepting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's blessing to take the office of the president (Iran's political system is a little different from ours).

More Monbiot.
Spend, Don’t Mend.

The 2012 Greendex survey found that people in poorer countries feel, on average, much guiltier about their impacts on the natural world than people in rich countries(1). The places in which people feel least guilt are, in this order, Germany, the US, Australia and Britain, while the people of India, China, Mexico and Brazil have the greatest concerns. Our guilt, the survey reported, exists in inverse proportion to the amount of damage our consumption does. This is the opposite of what a thousand editorials in the corporate press tell us: that people cannot afford to care until they become rich. The evidence suggests we cease to care only when we become rich.

Birth Control Goes to the Supreme Court

Today the U.S. Supreme Court accepted for review two cases challenging the federal contraception rule, which requires the inclusion of contraception coverage in health plans. One of the cases was brought by Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts supply chain with over 13,000 employees. The other case was brought by Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania wood furniture company.

It makes sense that the Supreme Court agreed to review these cases. Ever since the rule passed in 2011, there have been a spate of lawsuits, and a patchwork of court decisions throughout the country.

But as we have said in our friend-of-the-court briefs in these cases and others, the contraceptive rule should be upheld. Providing employees with a benefit – like paying their salary – that some employees may use to obtain health care that their employer finds objectionable, does not infringe on the company's owner's religious beliefs. While religious liberty is a fundamental right, the courts have not allowed religious beliefs to be used to deny others benefits or services or to be used to discriminate against others.

ACLU Sues CIA for Reports on Its Torture Program

The ACLU filed a lawsuit today under the Freedom of Information Act to compel the CIA to release two reports about its post-9/11 program of rendition, secret detention, and torture of detainees. This illegal program was devised and authorized by officials at the highest levels of government, and five years after it officially ended, the American public still doesn't have the full story about some of the most devastating rights violations committed in its name.

The first report, by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ("SSCI"), is the most comprehensive review of the CIA's torture program to date. Led by SSCI Chair Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee reviewed more than six million pages of CIA documents and other records over the course of three years. At the end of 2012, the SSCI approved its Study of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program, which spans over 6,000 pages and includes approximately 35,000 footnotes. Senator Feinstein, who deserves major credit for initiating and overseeing such a thorough investigation, stated that the report "uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight ... [T]he creation of long-term, clandestine 'black sites' and the use of so-called 'enhanced-interrogation techniques' were terrible mistakes." According to Senator John McCain, the report confirms that the "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners" is "a stain on our country's conscience."

In addition to detailing the CIA's illegal practices, the report reveals that the CIA misled the White House, the Department of Justice, and Congress about the "effectiveness" of waterboarding, wall-slamming, shackling in painful positions, and other methods of torture and abuse. As Senator Ron Wyden has noted, these CIA misstatements were eventually communicated to the public — but the agency has failed to set the record straight.


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.

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