Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Between the Skeleton Key and the COG: How Close NSA Mass Surveillance Really Is to Tyranny

"“So what 50 plots did NSA break up? A U.S. flag burning party in Yemen? A harsh letter to a U.S. Senator? Graffiti on the walls of a building saying ‘NO more WAR!’ – comment on UK Guardian website yesterday.

"Let's see: the costs tallied make it $2.5 billion for each 'plot' broken up. Is that really worth it?" - comment on UK Guardian site

"Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others cavalierly assert that the NSA’s surveillance of law-abiding citizens is “lawful.” Seriously? Of course it is. All you need to do is enact legislation approving tyranny and, as if by definition, tyranny becomes lawful. Add to that a “secret interpretation” of the law. Lawful? How are citizens supposed to abide by the law when it is subject to secret interpretation? It doesn’t get much more arbitrary than that. We may have less to fear from the terrorists than the overreaching zealots who would suspend the Bill of Rights" - Letter in Denver Post today from Richard Mignogna

“First of all I don’t understand this being bamboozled into thinking that you have to do this to find bad guys. That’s false. There’s very simple principles you can use to find out who is the bad guy and who isn’t and you can do this without violating anybody’s privacy”.- Former NSA code breaker Bill Binney commenting on Keith Alexander's NSA spying testimony and breaking up plots, this morning on CBS Early Show.

"Need a reason to worry about the NSA spying scandal? Try this: you legally protest an oil company in your town, are arrested, and wind up in court facing federal terrorism charges and a personal eternity behind bars. The evidence presented against you was gathered by NSA monitoring of your telephone usage and social media communications, all at the behest of said oil company, which owns every Senator who sits on the Intelligence Committee in Washington DC." - William Rivers Pitt's blog post, 'You, TERRORIST!'

"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America. And we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.” - Sen. Frank Church, referencing the NSA in 1975.

Now that we've heard and seen the PR stunt bloviations of Keith Alexander on the Hill, it's time to get real. People need to get their thinking and heads straight and at least try to separate wheat from chaff, signal from noise, bull crap from substance. After being treated to a parade of busted plots yesterday by Alexander, I had to scratch my head and ask: "Wait, only 20% of the 50 plots were in the U.S. - so you had to use an all out, indiscriminate mass dragnet surveillance of every freaking American to do that? And even if fifty Americans might have been killed in these plots (a big IF), that's still fewer than the 55 slaughtered in the Virginia Tech and Newtown massacres .....which most people have forgotten by now!

My point is that our priorities are totally fucked up vis-a-vis our basic rights. We have tens of thousands of deaths by gun each year and basically snooze about it, and maybe we prevented 50 deaths from terrorists - if that- and we go batshit crazy and extirpate all our 4th amendment rights? WTF gives?

Let's ask the question first: What did Sen. Frank Church know 38 years ago that evidently has most Americans sleeping at the citizen switch, according to polls that show 48% have no problem with the NSA PRISM and phone data gathering program while 47% oppose it. (I call the latter group, real citizens, awake and aware – or at least more probably aware of the risks).

Note that Sen. Church didn’t mince words, he used the phrase  "make tyranny total”  in reference to the NSA’s potential for harm – if not properly collared by the democratic process. It is possible that he was aware of a deep cover, deep secret Cold War-originated program started under Ike and fully validated under Ronnie Reagan. I hadn’t been aware of it either, I must confess, until reading an article in The UK Guardian yesterday along with comments following where one commentator referred to the “fact” the NSA program isn’t designed to thwart terrorists as claimed, but American citizens themselves. He gave it the initials COG for “Continuity of Government”.

I then set to work Googling and found the following information, including an article originally published in Counterpunch by deep politics expert Peter Dale Scott (who has also made singular contributions in his Kennedy assassination research).

- In the 1980s, a secret group of planners inside and outside the government were assigned, by an Executive Order of Reagan, to develop a response to a nuclear attack in which the U.S. government had been decapitated, forcing an alternative to the constitutional rules of succession. Two of these planners were Dick Cheney, then a Congressman, and Donald Rumsfeld, then a private citizen and CEO of the G.D. Searle drug company.

- Though some reports prematurely stated the program was “abandoned” (i.e. Tim Weiner of the New York Times, April 17, 1994), in fact Reagan’s Executive Order 12656, issued in 1988, remained in effect. The order stated that Continuity of Government procedures were called for in the event of "any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States."

- In the 1980s COG planning was being handled by Louis Giuffrida. According to an article by Alfonso Chardy (‘Reagan Aides and the `Secret’ Government’, Miami Herald, July 5, 1987.) Giuffrida’s plans included "suspension of the Constitution," along with detailed arrangements for the declaration of martial law.

- According to the 9/11 Commission Report (p. 326; cf. p. 38), "Contingency plans for the continuity of government" were implemented on September 11, 2001. But what measures were invoked remains unclear, though Giuffrida’s template was believed to be integrated into it and former Reaganites were in the WH at the time, who had shared earlier in the architecture (Rumsfeld, Cheney etc.)

- Those suspicious of what COG means today have pointed to a number of post 9/11 steps to facilitate the implementation of martial law, including the creation of a new military command (NORTHCOM) for the continental United States. They note also Homeland Security’s strategic plan “Endgame”, whose stated goal is the creation of detention camps designed to "remove all removable aliens," including "potential terrorists."

- Even worse, later mutations of COG under the Bushites  equated political dissent with treason. (Now we know why the security state was so hot to trot to squelch all OWS protests, including beating the living shit out of them when they tried to approach Wall Street and the Stock Exchange!)

In regard to the last, the definition of "terrorist" was expanded to "domestic terrorist" by congress in 2001, to include:

"“…activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States"

According to the ACLU, “this definition is broad enough to encompass the activities of…prominent activists, campaigns and organizations.”  That includes Occupy Wall Streeters and anyone who protests the Keystone XL pipeline!

Five years ago, investigative reporter Christopher Ketcham disclosed the extent of the spying which was confirmed last week by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Ketcham reported:

"The following information seems to be fair game for collection without a warrant: the e-mail addresses you send to and receive from, and the subject lines of those messages; the phone numbers you dial, the numbers that dial in to your line, and the durations of the calls; the Internet sites you visit and the keywords in your Web searches; the destinations of the airline tickets you buy; the amounts and locations of your ATM withdrawals; and the goods and services you purchase on credit cards. All of this information is archived on government supercomputers and, according to sources, also fed into the Main Core database.”

Got your attention yet? Ketcham went on:

There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived ‘enemies of the state’ almost instantaneously.” He and other sources note the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.”

You think this is a joke? Conspiracy theory nonsense? Then you’re not paying attention, especially on how the hammer of the security state was brought down on Occupy Wall Street protestors two years ago! See e.g.
and my December, 2012 blog post:

Clearly most COG plans are shrouded in extreme secrecy, effectively unregulated by Congress or the courts. But what ought to get the hackles of any sentient American up is their potential to be yoked to an overreaching surveillance state—as seems to be the case with the “Main Core” database . In this case, even sober observers must weigh whether the protections put in place by the federal government are becoming more dangerous to America than any outside threat.

To emphasize that and ram home the point that even right wing gun owners aren’t safe in their little domeciles if previous FEMA and FBI lists are any indication, the Main Core database includes dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people….including bloggers like me who may have railed against U.S. military imperialism and capitalism.

Note the “gun owners” included in the lists. So why aren’t the lists used to take away the guns or limit them now to reduce gun deaths? Because it would incite premature alarm and rebellion! The point isn’t to remove the guns now but later after martial law is declared and COG goes into effect. Can’t have any citizen resistance after all, to the forces of the military that will then occupy every U.S. major city.

The point is that the massive PRISM program and data collection is all that’s needed to assist COG plans coming to fruition in the case of any future “emergency” – real or confected. In that case, the terrorists won’t be the targets it will be “troublesome” Americans who still have a yen to express their displeasure by protesting – whether in writing or possible street protests. One thing you may be sure of is that the authorities here don’t want to see mass protests like we’ve beheld in Turkey or Egypt. Those would be the exact pretext by which to launch full COG clamp downs including martial law and suspension of the Constitution – just like Hitler’s Enabling Act did to once democratic Germany.

Think of PRISM then as a "skeleton key" to unlocking the fascist state imperatives incipient in COG. As any master locksmith knows, the skeleton key is the one which unlocks all locks, whatever their design. The principle in making a skeleton key is simple: the exclusion of everything redundant or non-essential combined with the concentration on the minimum effective part. This very efficiency and economy of technique brings the reward of massive application. In the case of PRISM, using existing technology to pinpoint every single American and paint him as "friend" or "potential enemy of the state" - if a future "emergency" is declared. It is also absolutely necessary if COG is to be effective whenever unleashed on an unsuspecting citizenry or using the pretext of the next terror attack - if one should occur.

Robert Scheer in his latest blog (‘The Terror Con’) has referred to “threat inflation” by which the security state keeps weak-kneed "citizens" panting for more protection like screaming school girls petrified of spiders. Keith Alexander's performance yesterday (and also today) are examples of such threat inflation - since while he tells us the number of threats and some vague ancillary info he gives no details on what made them important, or why mass surveillance was required to achieve the null outcome.

Scheer also referenced a June 11 column by Thomas Friedman who warned that if there was a second 9/11-type attack, "we would lose all of our civil liberties, so we should be grateful for this trade-off". WHY lose our civil liberties? Because a bunch of zealots take out maybe thousands of lives? Fucking LESS than lost each year to gun violence! Shit, we who lived through the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis – minutes from nuclear annihilation - find this preposterous! That a nation priding itself on freedom could give up all rights like a bunch of screaming sissies just because of a limited attack! NY Times columnist Bill Keller also seems to support the “Screaming sissy” hypothesis as when he writes:

“Tom’s important point was that the gravest threat to our civil liberties is not the NSA but another 9/11-scale catastrophe that could leave a panicky public willing to ratchet up the security state, even beyond the war-on-terror excesses that followed the last big attack.”

A panicky public? How about a bunch of pusillanimous pussies that don’t deserve freedom? A bunch that really wants their asses kicked to wake them from their scarified terrorist-bogeyman coma....which has repercussions on the rest of us (real citizens - not consumers) who value liberty over security! But maybe Keller and Friedman are on to something as when Friedman wrote on June 11:

“I believe that if there is one more 9/11—or worse, an attack involving nuclear material—it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it,”

Yeah, so the deep politics citizen must ask: What isn’t he saying Maybe that he knows COG will come into play and under its mandates, martial law will be permanent and we’ ll inhabit a full Nazified police state. How quickly that freedom went! Barely lasting 230 odd years! But maybe most of us were too damned cowardly and comatose to deserve it. We believed it was a "gift" as opposed to something one had to fight for every single day with every fiber of his mind, and might.

As Scheer puts it:

“No nation in history has ever possessed such an imbalance of military superiority and the ability to ward off foreign threats without sacrificing its core values. Never has this country been as vulnerable to foreign attacks as when the founders approved our Constitution with its Fourth Amendment and other protections of individual sovereignty against an intrusive government. They did so out of the conviction that individual freedom makes us stronger rather than weaker as a nation. In short, they trusted in the essential wisdom of the people as opposed to the pundits who deride it.”

But evidently, as soon as too many citizens became mostly consumers they devolved into crying infants and fucking babies who needed the Pappy Spy State’s protections. "WAAAAHHHHH! Please Gen. Alexander, hold me widdo hands! I don't wanna die from dem dere  t'errists!" More important to get that new X-box, Ipad or Notebook than to tend to one’s liberties, after all. Gotta make the country safe for shopping! In this case it may be too late, and the nonchalance evident now amongst the 48 percent will mutate into memory loss of the seventy percent in another few months, evoking Bradley Manning’s and Edward Snowden’s greatest fears: that their leaks won’t have made a difference at all.

“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it” – George Santayana

Take a trip back in time:

On March 23, 1933, the newly elected members of the German Parliament (the Reichstag) met in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider passing Hitler's Enabling Act- which was officially called the 'Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich.' (Think of it in neo-Orwellian terms, like "the Patriot Act")

If passed, it would effectively mean the end of democracy: no more labor unions, end of voting, free speech and a free press in Germany and establishing the legal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. The vote was taken - 441 for, only 84, the Social Democrats, against. This achieved what Hitler had wanted for years - to tear down the German Democratic Republic legally and end democracy, thus paving the way for a complete Nazi takeover of Germany.

Point? “Laws” can be implemented as abominations! Just because we are told mass spying is "lawful" or "legal" doesn't make it so - not if the original law was altered to make it conform to lawlessness. Will ‘Muricans perk up and take notice now lest history repeat, or go back to their Twitter and texting or TV? Sentient Americans have the right to know whether a COG program is still in effect, and whether the spying on our phone calls and Internet usage stems from such COG plans. Indeed, 9/11 was horrific and shocking, but certainly not a decapitating nuclear strike on our leaders as might have transpired if the Cuban Missile crisis hadn’t ended the way it did! In this case, COG and the state of emergency mandates under it should be lifted.

If COG plans are not still in effect, we the People have the right to demand that “enemies lists” and spying capabilities developed for the purpose of responding to a nuclear war be discarded , as we have not been hit by nuclear weapons … and our civilian leaders – on Capital Hill, the White House, and the judiciary – are still alive and able to govern. Let's not have an American Enabling Act take us down and a de facto dictatorship (complimentsTed Cruz or Sarah Palin) because of the fear of a terror attack. Hell, the Brits in WWII went through years of pounding and nightly terror by V2 rockets raining down and they didn't turn to jelly like we seem disposed to!

To see Peter Dale Scott's article 'Showdown' (on which some of this blog material is based) in Counterpunch, go to:

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