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Welcome To The Police State, Where You Must Fear Your Freedoms

by on Friday, August 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm EDT in Justice System, Occupy Wall Street, Politics, WikiLeaks

Anaheim Military Police – by Tim Pool (UStream)

Since September 11, 2001, discerning Americans have watched in dismay as their government has stripped away their most basic freedoms, and continues to mutate into something resembling a police state.

Sweeping cell phone surveillance is used by all levels of law enforcement. The NY Times recently revealed that an astounding 1.3 million law enforcement demands were made to cell phone carriers last year alone.

The telecom and technology sectors record and store Americans’ text messages, emails, the data they store online, social site user info, internet activity, and cell phone subscriber whereabouts (via cellular GPS technology), and hand this data over to government agencies with alarming regularity.

Private citizens used to be deemed ‘off-limits’ to law enforcement surveillance, unless a judge could be convinced to grant a warrant. This was precisely what separated the United States from the despotic nations of the world. 

But now, all 315 million Americans are subject to warrant-less, Orwellian-style surveillance. The amount of data being collected daily on normal Americans trumps what might have been captured on made members of the Gambino or Genovese crime families just two decades ago. But unlike those notorious Mafiosi of yesteryear, Americans today are not legally protected from overreaching law enforcement, due to the kinds of data now being collected.

Two weeks ago, former NSA Technical Director William Binney shocked attendants at the DefCon hacker conference when he made this revelation:

[T]he NSA was indeed collecting e-mails, Twitter writings, internet searches and other data belonging to Americans and indexing it.

“Unfortunately, once the software takes in data, it will build profiles on everyone in that data,” he said. “You can simply call it up by the attributes of anyone you want and it’s in place for people to look at.”

He said the NSA began building its data collection system to spy on Americans prior to 9/11, and then used the terrorist attacks that occurred that year as the excuse to launch the data collection project.

“It started in February 2001 when they started asking telecoms for data,” Binney said. “That to me tells me that the real plan was to spy on Americans from the beginning.” […]

“The reason I left the NSA was because they started spying on everybody in the country. That’s the reason I left,” said Binney, who resigned from the agency in late 2001.

Now, WikiLeaks and the Anonymous hacktivist collective, have released new information garnered from the Stratfor email hacking of last December, that sheds light on a new secret TrapWire surveillance system. TrapWire was created by a N. Virginia company called Abraxas, whose employee roster “reads like a who’s who of agents once with the Pentagon, CIA and other government entities.” 

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to access the emails at WikiLeaks (or any of its mirror sites) today, because as the whistleblower group began to release the Stratfor emails related to TrapWire, it suddenly came under a uniquely powerful distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. The group’s administrator believes the attacks are state-sanctioned, as it is unlike any prior DDoS attack they have experienced. Here are a series of WikiLeaks Tweets from today, regarding the scale of these attacks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

So what is TrapWire, and why has its leak created such a commotion? According to reporting at RT, TrapWire is a detailed surveillance system that “can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw[s] patterns, and do[es] threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists.” Anything suspect gets input into the system to be “analyzed and compared with data entered from other areas within a network for the purpose of identifying patterns of behavior that are indicative of pre-attack planning.” 

According to the article, this system has been secretly installed in most major cities and around landmarks across the United States, in Canada, and in the UK. Most local police forces are installing their own monitoring software that works in conjunction with TrapWire. Private properties, including casinos, are now signing up to TrapWire. Essentially, it sounds like Big Brother identifying you, watching you, assessing your every move for abnormalities, then indexing your behavior.

With 9-11 as its catalyst, the imperative for 100% terrorist-attack prevention has emerged as the overriding national doctrine. Despite coming at the expense of Americans’ most basic rights, it is one of the few remaining issues that enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support.

Even the disturbing revelations surrounding Obama’s Kill List have provoked little, if any, scrutiny on Capitol Hill or in the mainstream media. As a U.S. citizen, you may now be assassinated by your own government, based on mere suspicion. No warrants, no due process, no trial, no oversight. You merely cease to exist at the mere whim of a single U.S. politician. If that level of despotic power doesn’t encapsulate everything we know to be true about police states, then what does?

Conventional wisdom now has it that to prevent another terrorist attack from occurring somewhere on U.S. soil, everyone should faithfully and obediently submit themselves to the realities of a police state. And to ensure your compliance, the FBI has even attempted to plant fear and suspicion of Americans who stubbornly continue to value their privacy. 

Are you concerned about online privacy? Do you pay cash for your coffee at your local coffee shop? Do you ever shield your laptop screen from fellow coffee shop customers, so that they cannot read your private emails? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, the FBI believes you fit the profile of a terrorist, and the agency has distributed flyers to coffee shops around the country asking them to report you. 

In other words, those same terrorists who Americans were told “attacked us for our freedoms,” now just so happen to be the very ones who value those freedoms the most, and act to preserve them. 

To create the intimidation factor required for any self-respecting police state, those who serve in our local police forces are now being militarized for the first time ever, as if the civilian population itself now poses as a national security threat.

Last year, while the occupy movement peacefully protested in cities across the country, a new-militarized police force presented itself, and moved to brutalize protesters exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly. It was as if these long-cherished American values had suddenly become viewed by our government as threats to its power. The scores of video footage capturing these egregious acts of brutality — from city to city, in a seemingly coordinated effort — resemble scenes carried out in faraway lands by despotic regimes. 

Here is the reality about freedom: you may have a bill of rights, but if you are brutalized anytime you attempt to exercise those rights, you eventually become intimidated from ever doing so. And that appears to be the new order in America.

The brutality against occupy protesters became such an issue for human rights groups, as well as media groups whose reporters were being assaulted (including NY Times, The Associated Press, The New York Post, The Daily News, Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones & Company, etc.), that even the U.N. felt compelled to intervene. Two U.N. human rights envoys petitioned the Obama Administration to “protect Occupy protesters against excessive force by law enforcement officials.” The White House completely ignored their petition, and did absolutely nothing to reign in, much less condemn, the brutality.

Legal experts from NYU and Fordham University filed complaints with the NYPD, the U.S. Department of Justice and the United Nations, accompanied by a 132 page report entitled Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street. The document “catalogs 130 specific alleged incidents of excessive police force, and hundreds of additional violations, including unjustified arrests, abuse of journalists, unlawful closure of sidewalks and parks to protesters, and pervasive surveillance of peaceful activists.” This document barely scratches the surface, since its scope is limited just to the police response in NYC. The group plans to release similar publications for Boston, Charlotte, Oakland, and San Francisco.

For those of you who believe that our nation’s dramatic shift towards a police-state is justifiable, in light of 9-11, you should know that nearly every police-state throughout history became so under the guise of national security threats. Most despotic regimes faced real, perceived, or sometimes manufactured threats to their national security. And most of them could point historians back to their own 9-11-like ‘turning point’.

For example, Adolph Hitler would surely point historians to the burning of the Reichstag building on February 27, 1933 as Germany’s ‘turning point’. He blamed the arson on the Communists (Note: some prominent historians believed the Nazis themselves were responsible for the arson). But regardless of who actually burned Reichstag, the Nazis capitalized on that crucial moment in a way that would forever change the course of history.

They used the shock and fear generated by that event as justification for the Reichstag Fire Decree. This new law suspended basic rights of all Germans and allowed detention without trial. Sound familiar? That was Hitler’s very first step in consolidating his power, and transforming Germany into a despotic regime.

A government shifting towards despotism always works to capitalize on a nation’s fear. It uses that fear as the impetus to strip its citizens of their inalienable rights. And unfortunately, once those rights have been fleeced, it often takes a full-scale revolution or war just to restore them. 

Watch: WikiLeaks Debate: Glenn Greenwald VS WikiLeaks critic James Joyner

by on Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 1:09 pm EDT in Afghanistan, Politics, WikiLeaks, World

Here’s a great 20+ minute video debate on Al Jazeera between Salon blogger, Glenn Greenwald, Italian investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi, and WikiLeaks critic James Joyner.  As always, Glenn completely obliterates the underlying rational of his adversary’s position.  Enjoy!


Obama’s ‘Lobbyist Ban’: A White House ‘Aspiration’ To Remain Unenforced

by on Monday, October 12, 2009 at 10:25 am EDT in Politics, World

Kevin Bogardus of The Hill did a nice follow-up on the status of Obama’s campaign promise to ban all lobbyists from serving in his administration.  The White House issued a ‘guidance’ on the matter two weeks ago, and here’s what Bogardus’s investigative reporting uncovered:

The Hill contacted all 20 Cabinet-level agencies to see if they intended to follow the guidance issued two weeks ago by the White House. Twelve agencies returned messages before press time and all said they would adhere to the guidelines.

Norm Eisen, special counsel to The President (for ethics and government reform) revealed to The Hill that it was not being enforced by the White House, but being “left up to each of the agencies to follow through.”  Here’s how Eisen described the White House’s ‘guidance’ in his Sept. 23 blog post:

“The White House has informed executive agencies and departments that it is our aspiration that federally registered lobbyists not be appointed to agency advisory boards and commissions.”

The White House is leaving itself wiggle room to shirk its own initiative; one Obama campaigned on to restore integrity to the Executive Branch and ensure our policy-makers at the highest levels of government have no conflict of interest and that interest groups don’t have undue influence on policy:

Obama: “I am running to tell the lobbyists in Washington that their days of setting the agenda are over. They have not funded my campaign. They won’t work in my White House.”

What is it with Obama that his most deeply held principles, as espoused on the campaign trail, seem to lack any personal commitment now that he has an opportunity to actually make them a reality?

The United States can no longer risk having defense industry lobbyists, nor lobbyists of foreign countries — present or former — working for the Pentagon, and playing decisive roles in determining whether or not we allocate more troops and resources to Afghanistan, or whether or not we bomb Iran.  Could there be another conflict of interest in the entire stratosphere with the potential to inflict such massive havoc upon U.S. national security, as well as upon its financial stability — not to mention the potential for massive loss of life and destruction?

Geoff Morrell, press secretary for the Pentagon, said they intended to abide by the White House ‘guidance’.

Bogardus examines the logistics of what that would entail:

If the Pentagon follows through on not appointing lobbyists to its advisory committees, that could affect a number of individuals who are [already] advising Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

For example, Vin Weber sits on the Defense Policy Board, a powerful advisory committee in the Pentagon. Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota, advises the secretary and other top officials in the Pentagon on defense policy.

But Weber is a managing partner at Clark & Weinstock.  He registered to lobby this year for a number of high-profile corporations, such as Bechtel, eBay and KPMG. Under the White House guidance, the lobbyist will either have to terminate his registration or not be reappointed when his term is up.

Many of you will remember Weber’s client, Bechtel, as the company awarded the no-bid contracts to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq.   You may also remember the big news about how “Pentagon auditors were ‘going easy’ on Bechtel despite their chronic failure to provide the financial records required to prove tax dollars were being spent properly”.  In addition to Bechtel, Clark & Weinstock have a client list that includes many of the country’s largest defense companies, such as Boeing, General Dynamics, Elbit Systems, and Lockheed Martin.

And Weber is, as one might predict, making the case to remain in Afghanistan, and to escalate our troop levels there to the full 40,000 requested:

If Obama opts for a compromise approach, and sends only 15,000-20,000 troops [as opposed to the 40,000 requested by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal], Weber says Republicans will accuse Obama of underfunding the war by yielding to the left. Weber suggested this might be the worst policy option on the table, as Obama is going to need the GOP to get his national security policies through Congress, in light of a significant number of liberal Democrats unwilling to support continued military action.

… if Obama should start pulling American troops out of Afghanistan in an effort to end the war, as many on the left and a growing number of critics on the right have suggested (e.g. Pat Buchanan, George Will), Weber says, “Things will go very bad, very quickly,” with the Taliban likely to take control of a nation that does not have a security force prepared to keep order across the vast nation.

Weber told The Hill [about the White House’s Lobbyist guidelines]:

“If the policy permits me to stay under certain circumstances, I will. If not, I will thank them for the opportunity to serve.”

Obviously, Mr. Weber, your HUGE conflict of interest has compromised your ability to perform you duties at the Pentagon in an honest and ethical manner, and it is disgraceful that you have been — and continue to be — permitted by the Obama Administration to help shape our country’s foreign policy.  Please gather up your belongings and exit the building at once!

And Mr. President, please honor your campaign pledge, and PURGE these corrupted lobbyists from your Administration and all Cabinet-level agencies.  Enough of the pussyfooting around, already!