Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Will You Soon Be Classified as a “Terrorist”? Marianne Williamson’s Concerns – And Mine!

Photo: Marianne Williamson speaks before entering California primary.
"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.

Marianne Williamson is absolutely spot -on correct when she was quoted in a recent Los Angeles Magazine (June, p. 110) as noting her major worries included “diminishing civil liberties, expanding corporate influence, political corruption and the rise of domestic surveillance.” All those were given as reasons she planned to run for congress in California. (Whether she wins or loses, her voice will have been heard and her concerns are legitimate.)

Ms. Williamson went on to note that – added together – “these threats constitute such a powerful force of darkness that it could put American democracy in a death spiral” from which we may never recover.  Indeed, it may already be too late. Especially when one beholds the sheer mass of lily-livered “citizens” railing against Ed Snowden – after his recent interview- one even calling it an “infomercial for traitors” - as some dumb shit yahoo did on the Denver Post site, while others insisted he must "come home and face the music”. Yeah, right! A Kangaroo court where as Snowden observed in his Brian Williams interview,  no exculpatory evidence would be permitted on the grounds it is “classified”. Gimme a break! As Pentagon Papers hero Daniel Ellsberg pointed out on 'Andrea Mitchell Reports': "Snowden isn't running from justice, he's fleeing from INJUSTICE!"

 Williamson’s fear is reasonable, but  while she named the U.S. government (“We’re cool as American people, but it’s the U.S. government that’s bringing us down”) she might also want to have a look at some of the goobers that pass for citizens who are ALSO bringing us down because they’re playing right into the security state’s shameless exploitation of terrorism to destroy civil liberties.

As Snowden, as well as his lawyer (featured on Steve Kornacki’s ‘UP’ on Sunday), pointed out, there isn’t one scintilla of evidence the gov’t has presented – despite all its histrionics (or should I say, John Kerry’s hysterics),  that any real harm has come to anyone from Snowden’s leaks.  Oh lots of embarrassment – of course! But let’s not conflate embarrassment with actual harm. (And if you're going to jump on this "harm" bandwagon, you better also have the decency and consistency to put the five Taliban commanders - just released from Gitmo in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl - on the same radar.)

Now, skip to the latest disclosed NSA outrage (one must wonder how many more are needed to get our consumers…..errrr citizens to sit up and take note).  That is that the National Security Agency is collecting “millions of images per day” from photos shared online for use in its advanced facial recognition programs. The New York Times reports that the agency culls millions of faces from “emails, text messages, social media, video conferences and other communications,” gaining “tremendous untapped potential” to track intelligence targets throughout the world. 

In other words, let me spell it out for you. They take your Facebook, instagram, and text message et al  photos and compile them into nefarious “facial recognition” programs for which you lack even clue one on the collateral uses (and abuses) that could metastasize.

What if they are putting them all into the COG template – then what? Recall COG (continuity of government) allows authorities to identify as “domestic terrorists” all those assembled under its provisos. 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, GMO foods or any fracking well drilled near their home!

Think I’m exaggerating? According to one 2010 document, cited and quoted by the Times.
It’s not just the traditional communications we’re after: It’s taking a full-arsenal approach that digitally exploits the clues a target leaves behind in their regular activities on the net to compile biographic and biometric information that can help implement precision targeting,”

But you’re just a noble citizen ‘good guy’ so you got nothing to fear. Okay, fair enough, let's go with that myth. So let’s say for argument’s sake that a frack rig goes up near your home, e.g.

 The noise is ear splitting and the pollution god-awful. Half the night you’re choking on dust and your kids are getting rashes that won’t heal. Worse, your water can be lit on fire coming out of the tap and you dare not drink it. Finally pissed, you summon the backbone to take to the streets,  joining a protest on Main St. and lo and behold some scurvy little bum from a national or local security outfit is there taking photos of all protesting  n’er do wells. The photos are compiled and then compared to facial recognition captures made from FB, instagram, emails and so on.

Bingo! You’re ID’d and you, Mr. "Good Guy" , are a domestic terrorist! Now, you officially graduated to the Main Core database! According to investigator Christopher Ketcham who first exposed it:

"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.”
Meanwhile, the spooks are working overtime to assuage fears from skeptics and cynics - including those like me, and even Marianne Williamson. One NSA spokesperson told the Times:

the N.S.A. would be required to get court approval for imagery of Americans collected through its surveillance programs, just as it must to read their emails or eavesdrop on their phone conversations.”

But let’s bear in mind getting permission for such intrusions would be no biggie, not since the 1978 FISA law was “updated” to become basically a rubber stamping joke with nothing barred. So in reality, none of the new FISA courts will refuse anything. More than anything else, however, the revelations are a reminder of our increased vulnerability to being tracked online by any number of interested parties.  Snowden's lawyer appearing on Kornacki's  'UP' last Sunday, also noted how many clients of the NSA (seeking private information on citizens) are corporate sources. Of course, this is despicable.

I mean, Jeezus, trading on terror hysteria to sustain  and justify intrusive systems that raid citizen information for private, corporate consumption.  How low can  you go? See more from the Times:

Civil-liberties advocates and other critics are concerned that the power of the improving technology, used by government and industry, and they should be! According to Alessandro Acquisti, a researcher on facial recognition technology at Carnegie Mellon University:
  Facial recognition can be very invasive. There are still technical limitations on it, but the computational power keeps growing, and the databases keep growing, and the algorithms keep improving.”

As if that’s not enough, state and local law enforcement agencies are relying more and more on a wide range of databases of facial imagery, including driver’s licenses and Facebook, to identify suspects. The F.B.I. is developing what it calls its “next generation identification” project to combine its automated fingerprint identification system with facial imagery and other biometric data.

The State Department has what several outside experts say could be the largest facial imagery database in the federal government, storing hundreds of millions of photographs of American passport holders and foreign visa applicants. And the Department of Homeland Security is funding pilot projects at police departments around the country to match suspects against faces in a crowd.

The N.S.A., though, is unique in its ability to match images with huge troves of private communications.  So why the continual dismissive tone and naïvete regarding NSA programs? Because people - too many -  have regressed into consumers as opposed to active, skeptical citizens who ought to be keeping government on a short leash. Back in the day, like ca. 1975, there still existed a majority of real citizens instead of pretend ones, and so a Senator like Frank Church could articulate genuine fears on the NSA's powers even then (see quote at the top). 

Today, too many have become poppets, simple-minded consumers, so accept everything the gov't tells them like they accept everything companies tell them about their illustrious products. This regression also explains how a useful tool like Bill Scher ("Liberal oasis") could actually believe these intrusive, mass dragnet NSA programs are beneficial and "doing good". (As he did on Kornacki's show on Sunday.) Is Scher THAT terrified of a bunch of ragtag idiots he'd prepared to sacrifice most civil liberties? Evidently he is, at least from the claptrap he spouted against Snowden last Sunday morning.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. And whether you consider Marianne Williamson a ‘flake’ or not you ought to seriously consider her words when she describes such indiscriminate mass surveillance as a “lack of basic respect” for citizens and the addiction to doing it “sociopathic”.

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