20 July 2013

By Bobswern

Daily KOS

It’s amazing what our inverted totalitarian government can accomplish when they focus their collective institutionally paranoid minds upon a project. Take the NSA’s massive surveillance data processing and collections center in Bluffdale, Utah. As James Bamford noted in early 2012, it was scheduled to be up and running by September 2013, two months from now. But, according to NSA whistleblower Russell Tice, it already is.

And, before reading this eye-opening piece, I just want to state the obvious to all those reading these words, because this certainly is worthy of repetition: The simple fact remains that if all this information (and I earn my livelihood, in part, by working with personal-private information on a daily basis) is accessible to domestic law enforcement authorities, IT WILL BE ABUSED, and it most certainly is being abused; and, sooner or later, the odds are that this abuse will egregiously target not just YOU (it already has), but virtually all that struggle via non-violent protest for change in America.

On top of that, after the report on Bluffdale's early opening, I'm posting an information-filled page from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) concerning the FBI. It's a wake-up call to a greater reality for all those that think our country's surveillance state isn't--and in very basic ways that literally define the term: institutionalized racism--an out-of-control exercise in ethnic profiling.


The NSA’s Massive Data Center Is Coming Online Ahead Of Schedule — And It’s More Powerful Than You Thought

According to an NSA whistle-blower, the agency is routinely collecting the full contents of domestic communications. And its supersized Utah Data Center is up and running.

posted on July 15, 2013 at 3:09pm EDT

The National Security Agency’s massive Utah Data Center, designed for communications storage and processing is already up and running, despite agency claims the center won’t open until September. Opening the facility — the largest of its kind in history — is the key final step that will allow the agency to collect and store massive amounts of data on United States citizens. The NSA has numerous other data centers, but the Utah facility will be the central repository, enabling data collection on an unprecedented scale.

And according to Russ Tice, a former NSA intelligence analyst who still maintains close ties with numerous colleagues at the agency, it’s not just metadata — which has been a key distinction in the administration’s defense of its intelligence gathering programs. The agency, according to Tice, is currently able to collect the full contents of digital communications. That includes the contents of emails, text messages, Skype communications, and phone calls, as well as financial information, health records, legal documents, and travel documents. This comports with statements given this week by a former senior intelligence official, claiming that NSA Director Keith Alexander’s ethos was to “collect it all, tag it, store it … And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”

The NSA’s ability to collect and store such vast quantities of information is difficult to grasp. But so is the enormous footprint of the data center in Bluffdale, Utah, 25 miles south of Salt Lake City. The facility, which cost the government $2 billion, covers 1 million square feet, 100,000 of which is purely for computer servers and storage hardware. According to James Bamford’s Wired magazine article published last year, “The Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (10^24 bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes—so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)”…

…“I kept saying [in 2006 and 2009]: It is so much worse, but I can’t explain why right now,” Tice says. “Well, what I’m telling you right now, this is the rest of the story.”

While Tice was still at the NSA, he was able to see the identities of numerous targets of surveillance, which included high-level United States government officials. In the evenings, NSA analysts would be given handwritten notes on yellow legal-pad paper listing contact information for targets, including then-Senate hopeful Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, former CIA Director David Petraeus, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Republican Sen. John McCain, and Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein. Other targets include multiple three-star generals and admirals, lawyers, and members of the Senate and the House, including members of the intelligence committees and the armed services committees…

Yes, when it comes to our nation’s “war on terrorism,” we’ve been witnessing a tremendous amount of propaganda, disinformation, and…liesemanating from inside the Beltway in the past few months (which has been preceded by more than a decade of propaganda, disinformation and lies, as well).

Just this week, and even in today’s NY Times, we’ve been reminded—on more than one occasion--that our nation’s leaders tell us one thing as they move in the completely opposite and wrong direction, where and when it matters most.

(I’ve taken the liberty of providing a couple of pieces of “extra credit” reading/viewing, below. I hope you’ll find them enlightening.)

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One of my more recent themes, as far as the far-gone condition of our surveillance state is concerned, is the greater truth that our nation’s highly-propagandized “war on terror” is quickly morphing into what’s now being referenced by many as a “war on crime.” (And, if those reading this think “the war on crime” is not an institutionally racist issue, as it’s being defined by the actions of the FBI, and their profiling of entire communities in urban areas -- and their blatantly racist data manipulation efforts, described herein -- I would strongly recommend that you checkout “3,” below, and click upon the links in that paragraph, in particular.)

As with all things surveilled in our country these days, the proper organizations to facilitate that falsely-labelled effort are our local law enforcement authorities and, on the federal and local levels, the FBI. Here’s a piece that I’m taking the time to republish from over at the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) website, if for nothing else than as a reminder of the organization that’s leading this effort, domestically…

The Ten Most Disturbing Things You Should Know About the FBI Since 9/11

American Civili Liberties Union
July 5th, 2013

As Congress considers the nomination of James B. Comey to lead the FBI for the next ten years, lawmakers should examine measures to rein in a bureau that has undermined civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism. This is a false trade off: we can be both safe and free.

1  USA Patriot Act Abuse

The recent revelation about the FBI using the Patriot Act's "business records provision" to track all U.S. telephone calls is only the latest in a long line of abuse. Five Justice Department Inspector General audits documented widespread FBI misuse of Patriot Act authorities (1,2,3,4,5), and a federal district court recently struck down the National Security Letter (NSL) statute because of its unconstitutional gag orders. The IG also revealed the FBI's unlawful use of "exigent letters" that claimed false emergencies to get private information without NSLs, but in 2009 the Justice Department secretly re-interpreted the law to allow the FBI to get this information without emergencies or legal process. Congress and the American public need to know the full scope of the FBI's spying on Americans under the Patriot Act and all other surveillance authorities enacted since 9/11, like the FISA Amendments Act that underlies the PRISM program.

2  2008 Amendments to the Attorney General's Guidelines

Attorney General Michael Mukasey re-wrote the FBI's rulebook in the final months of the Bush administration, giving FBI agents unfettered authority to investigate people without any factual basis for suspecting wrongdoing. The 2008 Attorney General's Guidelines created a new kind of intrusive investigation called an "assessment," which required no "factual predicate" before FBI agents could search through government or commercial databases, conduct overt or covert FBI interviews, and task informants to gather information about people or infiltrate lawful organizations. In a two-year period from 2009 to 2011, the FBI opened over 82,000 "assessments" of individuals or organizations, less than 3,500 of which discovered information justifying further investigation.

3  Racial and Ethnic Mapping

The 2008 Attorney General's Guidelines also authorized "domain management assessments" which allow the FBI to map American communities by race and ethnicity based on crass stereotypes about the crimes they are likely to commit. FBI documents obtained by the ACLU show the FBI mapped entire Chinese and Russian communities in San Francisco on the theory that they might commit organized crime, all Latino communities in New Jersey and Alabama because a street gang has Latino members, African Americans in Georgia to find "Black separatists," and Middle-Eastern communities in Detroit for terrorism investigations. The FBI's racial and ethnic mapping program is simply racial and religious profiling of entire communities.

4  Unrestrained Data Collection and Data Mining

The FBI has claimed the authority to secretly sweep up voluminous amounts of private information from data aggregators for data mining purposes. In 2007 the FBI said it amassed databases containing 1.5 billion records, which were predicted to grow to 6 billion records by 2012, or equal to "20 separate ‘records' for each man, woman and child in the United States." When Congress sought information about one of these programs, the FBI refused to give the Government Accountability Office access. That program was temporarily defunded, but its successor, the FBI Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, currently has 360 staff members running 40 separate projects. Records show analysts are allowed to use data mining tools to establish "risk scores" for U.S. persons. A 2013 IG audit questioned the task force's effectiveness, concluding it "did not always provide FBI field offices with timely and relevant information."

5  Suppressing Internal Dissent: The FBI War on Whistleblowers

The FBI is exempt from the Whistleblower Protection Act. Though the law required it to establish internal mechanisms to protect whistleblowers, it has a long history of retaliating against them. As a result, a 2009 IG report found that 28 percent of non-supervisory FBI employees and 22 percent of FBI supervisors at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels "never" reported misconduct they have seen or heard about on the job. The FBI has also aggressively investigated whistleblowers from other agencies, leading to an unprecedented increase in Espionage Act prosecutions under the Obama administration, almost invariably targeting critics of government policies.

6  Targeting Journalists

The FBI's overzealous pursuit of government whistleblowers has resulted in the inappropriate targeting of journalists for investigation, potentially chilling press freedoms. Recently, the FBI obtained records from 21 telephone lines used by over 100 Associated Press journalists, including the AP's main number in the U.S. House of Representatives' press gallery. And an FBI search warrant affidavit claimed Fox News reporter James Rosen aided, abetted, or co-conspired in criminal activity because of his news gathering activities, in an apparent attempt to circumvent legal restrictions designed to protect journalists. In 2010, the IG reported that the FBI unlawfully used an "exigent letter" to obtain the telephone records of seven New York Times and Washington Post reporters and researchers during a media leak investigation.

7  Thwarting Congressional Oversight

The FBI has thwarted congressional oversight by withholding information, limiting or delaying responses to members' inquiries, or worse, by providing false or misleading information to Congress and the American public. Examples include false information regarding FBI investigations of domestic advocacy groups, misleading information about the FBI's awareness of detainee abuse, and deceptive responses to questions about government surveillance authorities.

8  Targeting First Amendment Activity

Several ACLU Freedom of Information Act requests have uncovered significant evidence that the FBI has used its expanded authorities to target individuals and organizations because of their participation in First Amendment-protected activities. A 2010 IG report confirmed the FBI conducted inappropriate investigations of domestic advocacy groups engaged in environmental and anti-war activism, and falsified public responses to hide this fact. Other FBI documents showed FBI exploitation of community outreach programs to secretly collect information about law-abiding citizens, including a mosque outreach program specifically targeting American Muslims. Many of these abuses are likely a result of flawed FBI training materials and intelligence products that expressed anti-Muslim sentiments and falsely identified religious practices or other First Amendment activities as indicators of terrorism.

9  Proxy Detentions

The FBI increasingly operates outside the U.S., where its authorities are less clear and its activities much more difficult to monitor. Several troubling cases indicate that during the Bush administration the FBI requested, facilitated, and/or exploited the arrests and detention of U.S. citizens by foreign governments, often without charges, so they could be interrogated, sometimes tortured, then interviewed by FBI agents. The ACLU represents two victims of such activities. Amir Meshal was arrested at the Kenya border by a joint U.S., Kenyan, and Ethiopian task force in 2007, subjected to more than four months of detention, and transferred between three different East African countries without charge, access to counsel, or presentment before a judicial officer, all at the behest of the U.S. government. FBI agents interrogated Meshal more than thirty times during his detention. Similarly, Naji Hamdan, a Lebanese-American businessman, sat for interviews with the FBI several times before moving from Los Angeles to the United Arab Emirates in 2006. In 2008, he was arrested by U.A.E. security forces and held incommunicado for nearly three months, beaten, and tortured. At one point an American participated in his interrogation; Hamdan believed this person to be an FBI agent based on the interrogator's knowledge of previous FBI interviews. Another case in 2010, involving an American teenager jailed in Kuwait, may indicate this activity has continued into the Obama administration.

10  Use of No Fly List to Pressure Americans Abroad to Become Informants

The number of U.S. persons on the No Fly List has more than doubled since 2009, and people mistakenly on the list are denied their due process rights to meaningfully challenge their inclusion. In many cases Americans only find out they are on the list while they are traveling abroad, which all but forces them to interact with the U.S. government from a position of extreme vulnerability, and often without easy access to counsel. Many of those prevented from flying home have been subjected to FBI interviews while they sought assistance from U.S. Embassies to return. In those interviews, FBI agents sometimes offer to take people off the No Fly List if they agree to become an FBI informant. In 2010 the ACLU and its affiliates filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 American citizens and permanent residents, including several U.S. military veterans, seven of whom were prevented from returning home until the suit was filed. We argue that barring them from flying without due process was unconstitutional. There are now 13 plaintiffs; none have been charged with a crime, told why they are barred from flying, or given an opportunity to challenge their inclusion on the No Fly List.

As many reading this may already be aware of it, this isan example of what happens when the full force of our nation's ubiquitous (and growing in size exponentially, as you read this) domestic and international surveillance infrastructure is used to “fight crime.”

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Last but not least, a little, somewhat gratuitous reminder that words matter, especially when they’re posted online in a well-read blog. From Chris Hedges’ interview series (the entire series is well worth a listen) with Paul Jay over at the Real News Network, from the past few days.

Here's the link which starts at 6:45 into the piece.

And, here's the whole broadcast of Part 3 of this 7-part series...

(Please note the screen background, which serves as support for Hedges' commentary in this excerpt between 7:00 and 7:19. Big h/t to Kossacks joe shikspack and Azazello.)

Originally posted to http://www.dailykos.com/user/bobswern on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 11:26 AM PDT.

Also republished by The First and The Fourth.