Sunday, October 13, 2013

Snowden Receives Award - His Take on NSA Mass Spying is Right On

"Mass spying is designed to identify the citizens who oppose both imperial wars and the destruction of domestic welfare.”       – James Petras
  For the first time since being granted asylum in Russia, Edward Snowden has emerged to receive the 'Sam Adams" award. No, it's not named after a popular beer, but after one of the nation's first whistleblower heroes. As such it is a noteworthy achievement, given our government has hounded this constitutional hero to the ends of the Earth while allowing real war criminals (hint, hint: Bush and Cheney et al) to walk free. Also present for the ceremony were former whistle blower heroes including: former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former NSA executive Thomas Andrews Drake and former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, and Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks .

Snowden's appearance also included a spot- on speech, especially relevant given Gen. Keith B. Alexander's blabber in testimony a few days ago,  insisting the mass dragnet approach is essential and hey, "Americans just got riled up (by the Snowden disclosures) because they didn't know how the data was being used and its limits."  Horse shit!  What does this guy take us for, idiots? A number of former NSA folks have made it abundantly clear this doesn't even pass a laugh test.

For reference, former NSA code breaker Bill Binney commenting on June 19 CBS' Early Show, on Keith Alexander's NSA spying testimony and "breaking up plots", acidly observed:

"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”.

Wow! Sounds like  Gen. Alexander is talking codswallop, no matter how "intense" he delivered his "testimony.  In contrast, Snowden's award speech underscores Binney's take to a tee.  Snowden argued that the methods employed by the U.S. to tap into phone and internet connections areound the world actually make people less safe. In short video clips posted by the WikiLeaks website on Friday, Snowden said the NSA mass surveillance he revealed before fleeing to Russia ''puts us at risk of coming into conflict with our own government.''

This is heavy stuff. It means we've all been sold a bill of goods, almost as defective as the crap put out by the Warren Commission on JFK's assassination. (Which we, serious JFK assassination researchers, believe was done to protect the national security state.)  It also means, as noted in an earlier blog post, we're all regarded as potential enemies and hence - yes, indeed - are all "at risk of coming into conflict with our own government" if they choose to regard our expressed opinions as identical with those of enemies of state. In any case, the haystack-dragnet approach automatically assumes we're all bad guys ab initio. If not, there'd be essential discrimination of signal from noise as Binney advocated.

Note that Sen. Frank 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. He may well have been able to see ahead to the COG ('continuity of government' program) which under the Bushites  equated political dissent with treason. (Enabling us to 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!)

The Bushies' COG expanded the definition of "terrorist" to include "domestic terrorist", assisted by a traitorous congress in 2001, whereby:

"…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 also disclosed the extent of the COGo's worst component:

"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

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.”

Those who want to read more on COG can go to:

So, we've no basis for being pacified or consoled by Keith Alexander's bollocks. We're more compelled to take Snowden's words seriously. He described NSA's approach as : ''dragnet mass surveillance that puts entire populations under sort of an eye that sees everything even when it's not needed.''

This also means oversight errors are more likely to take place, such as failing to detect the Boston bombers. There is simply a surfeit of data, information which makes finding the terror 'needle' much more difficult if the data pool is thousands of time larger than it need be.  Snowden also went on to point out:

''They hurt our economy. They hurt our country. They limit our ability to speak and think and live and be creative, to have relationships and to associate freely,''

Which is 100% spot on.  Why the hell should I attend a Xmas party with people I don't know if ONE of them might (on some offhand, remote chance) be a relative of a "terrorist" - which will then put me in the cross hairs of COG, or Main Core? Thus, awareness of the NSA's panopticon spy machine makes me less likely to seek out human connections, given one or more may already be on a Watch list, a former Keystone or OWS protestor or worse. Thus, it damages relationship potential - even for introverts.

Snowden's most apt remark was when he said the U.S. government was:

''unwilling to prosecute high officials who lied to Congress and the country on camera, but they'll stop at nothing to persecute someone who told them the truth.''

He is, of course, referring to James Clapper who had the audacity to outright LIE before a Senate Committee.  This even roiled Patriot Act co-author James Sensenbrenner who agreed with Snowden's take as he was quoted in a UK Guardian piece:

"Oversight only works when the agency that oversight is directed at tells the truth, and having Mr Clapper say he gave the least untruthful answer should, in my opinion, have resulted in a firing and a prosecution,"

Which is sad, because it means the principles of our nation have been stood on their head: the bad guys prosper while the good guys and heroes are turned into refugees or outcasts. Maybe Michael Parenti is right that we have become a "gangster state" and it's been on that path  - indeed initiated - from the date Kennedy was killed in Dallas. Thus it shows how the country has mutated to become a corporatocratic war-security state. And nearly all accomplished via corporate lobbyist cash and campaign contributions, especially from defense contractors and the security hucksters.

Maybe what we need is a lot more Edward Snowdens to expose the other aspects of the corporate state we don't know.

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