Glad we fought a revolution to be rid of this kind of thing.
We have met the enemy, and it is us.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) got a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant in 2006 to buy a stingray. The original grant request said it would be used for “regional terrorism investigations.” Instead they’ve been using them for just about any investigation imaginable.
In just a four month period in 2012, according to documents obtained by the First Amendment Coalition, the LAPD has used the device at least 21 times in “far more routine” criminal investigations. The LA Weekly reported Stingrays “were tapped for more than 13 percent of the 155 ‘cellular phone investigation cases’ that Los Angeles police conducted between June and September last year.” These included burglary, drug and murder cases.
Of course, we’ve seen this pattern over and over and over. The government uses “terrorism” as a catalyst to gain some powerful new surveillance tool or ability, and then turns around and uses it on ordinary citizens, severely infringing on their civil liberties in the process.
Stingrays are particularly odious given they give police dangerous “general warrant” powers, which the founding fathers specifically drafted the Fourth Amendment to prevent. In pre-revolutionary America, British soldiers used “general warrants” as authority to go house-to-house in a particular neighborhood, looking for whatever they please, without specifying an individual or place to be searched.
The Stingray is the digital equivalent of the pre-revolutionary British soldier. It allows police to point a cell phone signal into all the houses in a particular neighborhood, searching for one target while sucking up everyone else?s location along with it. With one search the police could potentially invade countless private residences at once.
These are truly must-see presentations by some of America’s most courageous patriots and civil libertarians. This presentation on U.S. Whistleblowers Being Targeted by the Secret Surveillance State is essential reading/viewing. Compiled by Firedoglake.com, It features Jesselyn Radack, who blew the whistle on ethics violations in the case of John Walker Lindh when she was an ethics adviser under Attorney General John Ashcroft, after it became clear the government was brazenly lying and suppressing information about torture and the violation of the basic rights of its prisoners.
The pivotal moment for her was when she realized the Justice Department was concealing work on the case… “My heart sank,” Radack states. “I literally felt sick. They were seeking the death penalty for this person and the relevant evidence had not made it to the court, evidence that would have a bearing on whether or not his confession would be admissible against him.”
She was eventually able to recover the missing emails. Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, which ultimately gave her no protection, she handed over evidence of misconduct and wrongdoing to Newsweek. She had no idea what would happen as the ”full force of the entire Executive Branch of the United States government” was unleashed.
As Radack states…
“The war on terrorism should not be a war on ethics, integrity, technology and the rule of law. Stopping terrorism should not include terrorizing whistleblowers and truth tellers who raise concern when the government cuts corners to electronically surveill, torture and assassinate its own people. And it is not okay for a president to grant himself the power to play prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner of anyone on the entire fucking planet.”
Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on government misconduct and illegalities at the National Security Agency, speaks after Radack and describes what it was like to see the rise of the Surveillance State after the September 11th attacks. He compares the rise to the Stasi secret police in East Germany, which operated under the motto, “To know everything.”
Continuing with the report by Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake…
In the Cold War, everything was suspect. “Today in the post Cold War era,” Drake states, “I do find myself asking myself and others, how can an open and vibrant democracy exist next to a secret security state?”
Drake faced the prospect early that he could be indicted and sentenced to prison for life if he did not cooperate. He was charged under the Espionage Act, as part of an escalating government trend to turn whistleblowers and truth tellers into criminals.
In the few days after 9/11, “I had people coming to me in private extremely concerned saying, Tom, why are they taking equipment that we normally use to monitor foreign nations and we’re now redirecting it against our own people?” he recounts. He learned the secret surveillance program was authorized by the White House and, as President Richard Nixon said, “If the President says it’s okay, it’s legal”…
Drake concludes, “Besides fearing for the future of the United States I do fear the creation of a universal wiretap record of a person’s life—the ability to have vast access to databases and on the fly be able to profile anybody at anytime anywhere.”
Finally, there is an eye-opening report from William Binney, a former NSA technical director who was raided and subject to investigation like Thomas Drake. He retired because he could no longer tolerate the corruption between employees and private contractors, the incestuous relationship where security was being traded for money.
Binney learned about a program called Stellar Wind, where the NSA was spying on Americans. He knew it was pointless to go to heads of the NSA because he knew the people running it. He went to the House Intelligence Committee because they were supposed to, under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other intelligence laws, monitor any spying on citizens. He told them and all they did is send someone to talk to then-NSA director Michael Hayden. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss did nothing. Nancy Pelosi, a ranking member of the Committee, did nothing about violations being committed because she was “co-opted into the program” and agreed not to push for Bush’s impeachment if she was kept informed of covert programs.
Binney says, “AT&T was providing 320 million records a day of US citizens talking to other US citizens.” And, “You can quickly build a communities on virtually everybody in the country.” There were no limits. This extended to all the people of the world.
What is most disturbing to me is Binney’s description of how there is so much money to be personally made by directors and operatives within the NSA, who use their positions to leverage notable sums for personal gain. In essence, feeding the infrastructure of surveillance in order to feed their own personal well-being, and to hell with the consequences to others, or even more importantly, to the very fabric of a democratically-accountable civil society. These people are by most definable accounts, traitors.
Kevin Gosztola also reports on this presentation by Tor software developer and WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum on Resisting the Surveillance State. This is another must read/watch presentation, in which Applebaum provides first hand experience in having one’s life completely violated by the secret surveillance state. Yet, he also provides a call to hope and clarity in how to confront and overcome the state of fear, paralysis and paranoia that can debilitate one’s ability to live a fulfilled life of meaning and purpose.
“Despite the fact that there are these oppressive systems of control and despite the fact that we do now live in a surveillance state,” it may still be possible to “resist the surveillance state and to turn things around if we wish. I think that there may come when that is not true. I don’t believe that time has arrived.”
For attendees (who likely are people who mostly work with technology), he asserts that there are “simple things” one can do to decide if working on something is oppressive or not.
“Ask if you are working on a system that helps to control others or if you’re working on system that helps to enable others to have control over their own lives,” Appelbaum states. For example, “if you are working on deep packet inspection that will be deployed on people who do not have a say in it, you are probably working for the oppressor.” He adds one can make a choice. “It is possible to make a living making free software for freedom instead of closed-source proprietary malware for cops.”
A point of particular note is when Applebaum describes NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander as probably the “most powerful man in the world,” one who controls the intelligence structure of the NSA. Detailing the kind of power this gives him, a sort of Hoover-esque surveillance capability on massive steroids with global reach, is not the kind of thing that should inspire comfort among just about anyone outside the inner circles of the ruling elites (and even they’re not immune. Just ask Gen. David Patraeus about that).
He also talks about how the secret police and surveillance agencies are actually changing our ability to govern ourselves freely. They do it in a way that is not obvious, and is seemingly impossible to be able to resist. But when we build free and open source software and hardware (the kind of work that is often supported by organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, we are enabling people to be free in ways they were previously not. “Literally, people who are writing free software are granting liberties.”
Another essential piece of journalism comes from the ever-insightful Tom Engelhardt, who provides this inside look at our Supersizing Secrecy, and the increasing visibility of the invisible government of covert power, which has breached all sorts of boundaries in a nation once considered to operate as a democratic republic.
In the past, American presidents pursued “plausible deniability” when it came to assassination plots like those against Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem. Now, assassination is clearly considered a semi-public part of the presidential job, codified , bureaucratized, and regulated (though only within the White House), and remarkably public. All of this has become part of the visible world (or at least a giant publicity operation in it). No need today for a Wise or Ross to tell us this. Ever since President Ronald Reagan’s CIA-run Central American Contra wars of the 1980s, the definition of “covert” has changed. It no longer means hidden from sight, but beyond accountability.
It is now a polite way of saying to the American people: [your government is] not yours. Yes, you can know about it; you can feel free to praise it; but you have nothing to do with it, no say over it.
In the 48 years since their pioneering book was published, Wise and Ross’s invisible government has triumphed over the visible one. It has become the go-to option in this country. In certain ways, it is also becoming the most visible and important part of that government, a vast edifice of surveilling, storing, spying, and killing that gives us what we now call “security,” leaves us in terror of the world, never stops growing, and is ever freer to collect information on you to use as it wishes.
With the passage of 48 years, it’s so much clearer that, impressive as Wise and Ross were, their quest was quixotic. Bring the “secret power” under control? Make it accountable? Dream on — but be careful, one of these days even your dreams may be on file.
Engelhardt’s warnings about even one’s dreams being put on file is not out of the bounds of reason, when one considers how the security state is completing work on its massive data compiling center in Bluffdale, Utah, under the auspices of the Orwellian Operation Stellar Wind program, which puts anything the old German Stasi could have wished for to shame.
Binney, whose work at the NSA was perverted into this program, speaks on this and a number of other highly disconcerting issues in his presentation in this video. It would behoove all Americans who care in the slightest for their personal freedom and civic well-being to watch and heed Binney, Drake, Raddick and Applebaum’s words here.
UPDATE: And on a very related note, JFK’s speech of April the 27th, 1961, to the American Newspaper Publishers Association at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, on how secrecy corrodes a democratic society is very eye (and ear) opening, and more relevant today than ever.
The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.
You can read the full transcript of the speech Here.
People really need to listen to William Binney, whistleblower and former NSA crypto-mathematician who served in the agency for decades. He helped develop a system that is now being turned upon the American people.
“They are violating the entire foundation of this country… And under Executive Order 13526 Section 1.7, you cannot classify information just to cover up a crime. Which this is. Signed by both Presidents Obama and Bush.”
Privacy in the virtual world, the Petraeus affair, and whistleblowers’ odds in fight against the authorities are among the topics discussed in this short interview.
As Senator Frank Church, who led the committee investigating the illegal surveillance activity engaged by the government against Americans, remarked…
The National Security Agency’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn‚t matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the NSA could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.
Church had found that every single president, whether Democratic or Republican, had systematically abused eavesdropping powers. And he warned about the National Security Agency which was at the heart of this abuse.
As Binney points out, if any of this comes into the Supreme Court and they rule it unconstitutional [which in an honest society it would be deemed to be on the face of it], then the entire house of cards that the government has created to maintain this modern Stasi-style mass surveillance state would come crashing down.
Glenn Greenwald highlights in this piece from The Guardian what the real scandal is behind all the recent hoopla surrounding the recent revelations concerning the extra-marital affairs among the elite leadership of America’s national security state.
That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email. The emails Kelley received were, as the Daily Beast reports, quite banal and clearly not an event that warranted an FBI investigation:
So not only did the FBI - again, all without any real evidence of a crime - trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell’s emails (and possibly Petraeus’), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.
This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.
But, as unwarranted and invasive as this all is, there is some sweet justice in having the stars of America’s national security state destroyed by the very surveillance system which they implemented and over which they preside. As Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it this morning: “Who knew the key to stopping the Surveillance State was to just wait until it got so big that it ate itself?”
The US operates a sprawling, unaccountable Surveillance State that - in violent breach of the core guarantees of the Fourth Amendment - monitors and records virtually everything even the most law-abiding citizens do. Just to get a flavor for how pervasive it is, recall that the Washington Post, in its 2010 three-part “Top Secret America” series, reported: “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”
Read Greenwald’s complete piece as published by Reader Supported News, in which they’ve published some video links, featuring journalist Michael Hastings in an 8-minute clip from CNN’s Piers Morgan Show, where Hastings appeared with two Petraeus-defending military officials. Also included is a video to a speech Glenn Greenwald gave earlier this year on the Surveillance State and the reasons it is so destructive.
This related report from Forbes touches on the same points. It reiterates something I’ve been going on about for years now, how the massive growth of the national surveilliance state is leading us to a world of Terry Gilliam’sBrazil.
As the David Petraeus scandal spirals ever deeper into absurdity, it’s important to remember three ironclad rules of government:
1. Incompetence is a feature of bureaucracies.
2. Bureaucracies given special powers will exercise them. Incompetently.
3. This will continue, in escalating fashion, until they take it so far that a scandal erupts, and the public reacts against it and politicians act to rein it in.
“…it’s important to remember that since 9/11 the United States has created a formidable security state that needs only the slightest excuse to go on a fishing expedition through your emails and other electronic records. And that no one, not even the CIA director, is exempt from these dragnets, which tend to take on a life of their own.”
After all, as I read in one Twitter feed, “If the CIA director can get caught, it’s pretty much open season on everyone else.”
Chris Hedges lays it out regarding the so-called National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and its implications for the future of life and liberty in the United States. The binary world of “with us or against us,” besides being inherently anti-American in principle and purpose, heralds a pretty dystopian version of society, when merged with the awesome capacities inherent in the digital mass surveillance envirionment of the modern technological state. It is a society where dissent becomes conflated with treason and sedition, and there is no differentiation between why and how one challenges power, only that one is challenging it. Arguing against bank bailouts and crony capitalism becomes an offense of no distinction from engaging in jihadist mass murder.
In such a society, any realm of just law or democratic accountability is impossible. Welcome to tyranny.Hedges’ article goes into some detail in just how this tarnishing by fabricated association works among the security state apparatus…
The deliberate obtuseness of the NDAA’s language, which defines “covered persons” as those who “substantially supported” al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces,” makes all Americans, in the eyes of our expanding homeland security apparatus, potential terrorists. It does not differentiate. And the testimony of my fellow plaintiffs, who understand that the NDAA is not about them but about us, repeatedly illustrated this.
Alexa O’Brien, a content strategist and information architect who co-founded the U.S. Day of Rage, an organization created to reform the election process and wrest it back from corporate hands, was the first plaintiff to address the court. She testified that when WikiLeaks released 5 million emails from Stratfor, a private security firm that does work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Marine Corps and the Defense Intelligence Agency, she discovered that the company was attempting to link her and her organization to Islamic radicals and websites as well as jihadist ideology.
In early September, U.S. Day of Rage, which supported the Sept. 17 call to occupy Wall Street, received Twitter messages that falsely accused it of being affiliated with terrorist groups. The messages came from a privately owned security and intelligence contractor, Provide Security, managed by Thomas Ryan, who works for U.S. military and government agencies, and Dr. Kevin Schatzle, a former FBI, Secret Service and New York City Police Department counterterrorism agent who is on the advisory board of a private intelligence firm that sells technology to profile and interrogate terrorism suspects.
Perhaps the most chilling exchange on Thursday took place between government lawyers and Judge Forrest. The judge, who will probably rule in May, repeatedly asked for assurance that the plaintiffs would not be subject to detention under the NDAA. It was an assurance the two government lawyers refused to give. She asked U.S. Assistant Attorney Benjamin Torrance whether the government would see a book containing the sentence “I support the political goals of the Taliban” as providing “material support” for “associated forces.”
Torrance did not rule out such an interpretation.
“You are unable to say that [such a book] consisting of political speech could not be captured under [NDAA section] 1021?” the judge asked.
“We can’t say that,” Torrance answered.
“Are you telling me that no U.S. citizen can be detained under 1021?” Forest asked.
“That’s not a reasonable fear,” the government lawyer said.
“Say it’s reasonable to fear you will be unlucky [and face] detention, trial. What does ‘directly supported’ mean?” she asked.
“We have not said anything about that …” Torrance answered.
“What do you think it means?” the judge asked. “Give me an example that distinguishes between direct and indirect support. Give me a single example.”?
“We have not come to a position on that,” he said.
“So assume you are a U.S. citizen trying not to run afoul of this law. What does it [the phrase] mean to you?” the judge said.
“I couldn’t offer any specific language,” Torrance answered. “I don’t have a specific example.”
There are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, The Washington Post reported in a 2010 series by Dana Priest and William M. Arken. There are 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances, the reporters wrote, and in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2011. Investigative reporter James Bamford wrote in the latest issue of Wired magazine that the National Security Agency is building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret NSA surveillance program code-named “Stellar Wind.” Bamford noted that the NSA has established listening posts throughout the country to collect, store and examine billions of emai messages and phone calls.
If we lose this case it will hand to the vast network of operatives and agencies that investigate and demonize anyone who is not subservient to the corporate state the power to detain citizens and strip them of due process. It will permit the security and surveillance state to brand as terrorists any nonviolent protesters and movements, along with social and political critics, that in the government’s imagination have any trace of connection to al-Qaida or “associated forces.” If the National Defense Authorization Act is not reversed it will plunge us into despotism, leaving us without a voice, trapped in eddies of fear and terror, unsure of what small comment, what small action, could be misinterpreted to push us out of our jobs or send us to jail. This is the future before us. And we better fight back now while we can.
As a reader of Hedges’ article, writing under the nom de plume of piceprisnersdilema, commented…
The Terror war was the pretext for the one per centers, to install a totalitarian regime in Chimerica.
Each, moment of fear, complete with multi colored terror warnings, was used to create a regime, to protect the one per centers from their greatest fear, the American people with their rights intact.
While they spread paranoia, and fear, they allowed the borders to remain a sieve. While they talked about austerity, they stole trillions, and bought immunity…
Just, as the European Aristocracy used to picnic on the battlefield, while armies slaughtered themselves, they have engaged in unparalleled gluttony, while reducing American soldiers to amputee’s and quadriplegics, poisoning their families with depleted Uranium.
But if you bring these things up, you risk being labeled as a terrorist yourself. For they view the truth as terror.
Who are these crippled monsters? We know them well in this country, they are the corporate state, and the corporate political duopoly that licks their behind.
The truth is the only mirror in which they can view themselves, this is why they must hide behind a cloud of lies.
This is why we need as much truth and transparency as possible in civic affairs. Here’s to all those who are working to make it so. Especially Chris Hedges and all of his co-plaintiffs who are pursuing the lawsuit against the NDAA and all the insidious ramifications inherent in it.
Mass interception of entire populations is not only a reality, it is now a secret new industry spanning 25 countries. This report from WikiLeaks is revealingly disturbing regarding the depth and scope of the amount of surveillance that can and is taking place today, and the unaccountable nature to it.
In traditional spy stories, intelligence agencies like MI5 bug the phone of one or two people of interest. In the last ten years systems for indiscriminate, mass surveillance have become the norm. Intelligence companies such as VASTech secretly sell equipment to permanently record the phone calls of entire nations. Others record the location of every mobile phone in a city, down to 50 meters. Systems to infect every Facebook user, or smart-phone owner of an entire population group are on the intelligence market.
When citizens overthrew the dictatorships in Egypt and Libya this year, they uncovered listening rooms where devices from Gamma corporation of the UK, Amesys of France, VASTech of South Africa and ZTE Corp of China monitored their every move online and on the phone.
Surveillance companies like SS8 in the U.S., Hacking Team in Italy and Vupen in France manufacture viruses (Trojans) that hijack individual computers and phones (including iPhones, Blackberries and Androids), take over the device, record its every use, movement, and even the sights and sounds of the room it is in. Other companies like Phoenexia in the Czech Republic collaborate with the military to create speech analysis tools. They identify individuals by gender, age and stress levels and track them based on “voiceprints.” Blue Coat in the U.S. and Ipoque in Germany sell tools to governments in countries like China and Iran to prevent dissidents from organizing online.
Trovicor, previously a subsidiary of Nokia Siemens Networks, supplied the Bahraini government with interception technologies that tracked human rights activist Abdul Ghani Al Khanjar. He was shown details of personal mobile phone conversations from before he was interrogated and beaten in the winter of 2010-2011.
Across the world, mass surveillance contractors are helping intelligence agencies spy on individuals and “communities of interest” on an industrial scale.
The Wikileaks Spy Files reveal the details of which companies are making billions selling sophisticated tracking tools to government buyers, flouting export rules, and turning a blind eye to dictatorial regimes that abuse human rights.
To read the full report, watch a short video describing the nature of what this entails, and to search the companies involved on a world map, go Here
This is an enlightening and disturbingly revealing discussion on the radically expanding levels of online surveillance that governments and corporations are able to wield today over your personal information on the internet.
It is about the new technology of “mass surveillance,” referred to as “strategic interception,” where corporations are helping to enable governments to record and store all phone transmissions, all internet communication from the entire population of a country. This is the militarization of cyberspace, which has been considered a form of civilian space, where a whole range of details of our lives flows to and fro through, and which are documented and stored upon.
This is staggering in its implications, and happening at a rate and to a degree which populations are not prepared for. It certainly challenges the fundamental basis of any notion of rights which are elaborated in the American Constitution, or any international covenants on human rights.
“Every civilian is now a target of military intelligence activity. Everyone.
“There is little left of democratic life that is not surveilled. But it is not being surveilled equally. It is not the public that is surveilling big corporations, secretive government agencies, and the rest of the public. Rather, there is a disproportionate flow of information from us, from the public, into organizations that are already very powerful. And that permits the elite - the surveillance elite, the national security state elite of any country - to lift off from its people. To disconnect from its people. To predict its people. That’s a dangerous situation.
“And what we’re dealing here is not merely the surveillance elite of one country operating alone, but rather an international surveillance elite; transnational companies selling these products all over the world, and then intelligence agencies swapping data that they collect with each other. That’s a worrying situation for western democracies.”
“That’s a worrying situation for western democracies.”
Understatement of the year.
And to think, the power establishment is working overtime to convince you that its this guy talking about this who is the threat to “freedom” and your rights to privacy and liberty..
Highly recommended, even essential viewing.
And while you’re at it, this is worth taking in, as well. Julian Assange Julian Assange speaking to The Cambridge Union Society, about freedom of information, freedom of discourse, the rise of the the modern technological national security state, and more.
[The internet is] a technology which can be used to set up a totalitarian spying regime, the likes of which we have never seen. Or, on the other hand, if taken by us, and taken by activists, and taken by all those who wish a different trajectory for a technological world, it can be something that we all hope for.
That battle between people wo want to use the internet as a tool of liberation, and those tremendous organizations that want to use the internet as a tool of control - mass control - is not over. It is only just beginning.
They’re baaaack. Like an energizer bunny of mendacious stupidity, SOPA-sponsor Lamar Smith has changed tactics, and is now back to pushing provisions of his internet censorship agenda under the guise of protecting Americans from…wait for it…child pornographers. Yes, the new bogeyman with his online 24/7 surveillance act, H.R. 1981 is ostensibly child pornographers, as if *any* such activity like that is legal, and so needs all of these extra-judicial tools of control to stop it. Seems that “Stop Online Piracy” (SOPA) doesn’t resonate with enough people, so now he is resorting to giving private corporations, in conjunction with the government, wide-ranging arbitrary powers over just about any kind of content on the internet under the rubric of it being “The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011″.
Tracking the private daily behavior of everyone in order to help catch a small number of child criminals is itself the noxious practice of police states. Said an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “The data retention mandate in this bill would treat every Internet user like a criminal and threaten the online privacy and free speech rights of every American.” Even more troubling is what the government would need to do in order to access this trove of private information: ask for it.
In Communist countries, where the ruling class routinely dug up embarrassing information on citizens as a bulwark against dissent, the secret police never dreamed of an information trove as perfect for targeting innocent people as a full Internet history. Phrases I’ve Googled in the course of researching this item include “moral panic about child pornography” and “blackmailing enemies with Internet history.” For most people, it’s easy enough to recall terms you’ve searched that could be taken out of context, and of course there are lots of Americans who do things online that are perfectly legal, but would be embarrassing if made public even with context: medical problems and adult pornography are only the beginning. How clueless do you have to be to mandate the creation of a huge database that includes that sort of information, especially in the age of Anonymous and Wikileaks? How naive do you have to be to give government unfettered access to it? Have the bill’s 25 cosponsors never heard of J. Edgar Hoover?
Unfortunately, this original crappy legislation has been moved through Congress, but what Smith seems to be doing now is working to amend that legislation with a new effort giving many more sweeping powers of oversight and control of content on the web. All in the name of “protecting our children,” of course. There is nothing more pathetic in politics than when people use “our children” as a human shield to ram through some of the most pitiful and self-serving policies around. As if Smith or many of his cohorts give a s**t about America’s “children,” in a country setting new records in child poverty, and where public education, public health, and child care are being drained of any support in the name of maintaining our global military presence and an ever-bloated national security state.
This act was already pushed last year, but it seems Lamar Smith is trying to re-energize this in light of the failure of SOPA, due to the overwhelming opposition against it. This new effort is looking “To amend title 18, United States Code, with respect to child pornography and child exploitation offenses,” making child pornography “double illegal,” I guess, and most everything else we say and do on the internet liable to oversight and censorship. (Lamar is definitely one Mr. Smith who needs to go AWAY from Washington, and as soon as possible.
This whole legislative effort is quite the act of political engineering, in that Smith and his cohorts are framing this in a manner which makes it politically untenable to oppose it. After all, if you are against corporate control of content on the internet, then you must be for child porn! It was bad enough having to engage in arguments with people about the negative impacts of online piracy, as if one was a cheerleader for it, just because one doesn’t abide well with the idea of sweeping arbitrary powers of control over online content by large media corporations, working in cahoots with government. I figure if this tack doesn’t work, they’ll resort to that old chestnut of blaming al Qaeda for digital “threats,”, and start claiming that you must be “for the terrorists” if you don’t support SOPA and PIPA.
What’s really scary about this bill, though, isn’t just the fact that this gives such sweeping power over internet content, but that it requires ISP’s to keep all of that personal and financial information stored for such an extended length of time. Besides the crazy amount of storage space that requires these companies to invest in, it makes every single ISP and web server a honey pot target for financial and identity theft.
So let’s make this perfectly clear everyone. These legislative efforts have NOTHING to do with internet security, property rights, protecting people from child pornography, etc… This is about control, plain and simple. Control over information, and the means and the ability for people “to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights). In other words, this is about the very core of power itself, and about who wields preeminent power over society. Information is the fundamental ingredient of power, its primary source and enabler. This is more true than ever in today’s “Information Age.”
So don’t worry, your information will be “stored securely” so noone else can access it! But if they do access it, your ISP will give you “prompt notice” so you can change all your credit card numbers, hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband. This bill has currently cleared its committee, this meaning that the next step is a full vote. This bill needs to be stopped, and if I might go one better, Lamar Smith needs to be stopped, for the good of the internet and YOUR privacy.
UnCommon Sense TV - “The Patriot Act” What is it and why was it created? What are its intended purposes and the actual ramifications of its implementation? Is it an effective protection of America or an insidious threat threat to the core values and functioning of our democratic society? A new way of fighting terrorism or just a rehash of the days of domestic surveillance and political intimidation as experienced for decades by the FBI’s “Cointelpro” operation? Should its provisions be extended indefinitely, or allowed to expire, and how does all this relate to “Patriot Act II” and the newly-unveiled “Victory Act”?
This is pretty creepy stuff. I know it isn’t directly related to federal power or the laws of the national (in)security state, but the implementation of the technology itself gives serious pause, especially considering the symbiotic and arguably overly-cooperative role communications corporations have with the government (and their willingness to serve as unofficial organs of the national surveillance apparatus). Total information awareness, indeed…
If you have some tinfoil handy, now might be a good time to fashion a hat. At the Digital Living Room conference today, Gerard Kunkel, Comcast’s senior VP of user experience, told me the cable company is experimenting with different camera technologies built into devices so it can know who’s in your living room.
The idea being that if you turn on your cable box, it recognizes you and pulls up shows already in your profile or makes recommendations. If parents are watching TV with their children, for example, parental controls could appear to block certain content from appearing on the screen. Kunkel also said this type of monitoring is the “holy grail” because it could help serve up specifically tailored ads. Yikes.