Sunday, June 30

How PRISM interfaces with internet providers: Like pus from a lanced boil the revelations keep oozing out. Uck.

The Washington Post released the data earlier today.  Here's the link to the report, and here are a few paragraphs from the the Guardian's summary of the report:

The Washington Post has released four previously unpublished slides from the NSA's PowerPoint presentation on Prism, the top-secret programme that collects data on foreign surveillance targets from the systems of nine participating internet companies.

The newly published top-secret documents, which the newspaper has released with some redactions, give further details of how Prism interfaces with the nine companies, which include such giants as Google, Microsoft and Apple. According to annotations to the slides by the Washington Post, the new material shows how the FBI "deploys government equipment on private company property to retrieve matching information from a participating company, such as Microsoft or Yahoo and pass it without further review to the NSA".

The new slides underline the scale of the Prism operation, recording that on 5 April there were 117,675 active surveillance targets in the programme's database. They also explain Prism's ability to gather real-time information on live voice, text, email or internet chat services, as well as to analyse stored data.


As to whether the Washington Post report or any report such as the Guardian's summary about the Post revelations made it onto Google News today -- not to my knowledge, and I've checked there on and off all day.

Glenn Greenwald previews next Snowden bombshell and skewers mainstream news media

Wow. Hard words from Glenn Greenwald about "establishment journalism." As to Ed Snowden's next revelation --

From The Slatest Blog, Slate Magazine, June 29, 2013:

Glenn Greenwald previewed a yet-to-be-published document about the National Security Agency surveillance program during a speech at the Socialism 2013 Conference in Chicago on Friday night.

Speaking via Skype [...] Greenwald said the Guardian is planning to publish a document showing that new technology allows the National Security Agency to direct one billion cell phone calls every day into its data repositories.

"What we are really talking about here is a globalized system that prevents any form of electronic communication from taking place without its being stored and monitored by the National Security Agency," Greenwald told the liberal crowd.

"It doesn't mean they're listening to every call. It means they're storing every call and have the capacity to listen to them at any time."

In his speech, Greenwald excoriated the press for criticizing former contractor Edward Snowden's decision to leak the NSA documents, saying a climate of fear permeates investigative journalism and cripples the mainstream reporters' ability to speak truth to power.

“In their minds, the only kinds of leaks that are bad are leaks that the government doesn’t want disclosed to the public,” Greenwald said.

“The only thing that is journalism to them is when they carry forth the message that has been implanted in their brains by the political officials whom they serve. And I think this behavior highlights the true purpose of establishment journalism more powerfully than anything I or anybody else have ever written.”

His full remarks start around the 10:30 mark [YouTube video]:


Welcome to Shutter Island or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cyberwar

Dr. Strangelove to Russian Ambassador de Sadesky: "Of course the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret. Why didn't you tell the world, eh?"

Ambassador de Sadesky: "It was to be announced at the Party Congress on Monday. As you know, the Premier loves surprises."

-- Dialogue from Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film "Dr Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"


The commander of the world's military hyperpower might have planned to inform the American public at some point that he'd ordered a secret military strike, in conjunction with Israel's military, on an Iranian uranium enrichment plant. But the way things worked out, Americans and indeed the entire world public had to come by the information the hard way. This happened after the Stuxnet virus wandered off the reservation and began attacking the computers of major American corporations.

As further indication that President Obama and his spin doctors might be candidates for Shutter Island, the American public was told that the use of computer technology to launch a physical attack on a nuclear facility was to slow down the development of a nuclear WMD. In other words, it was necessary to secretly set in motion cyber war in order to stop Iran from bringing on doomsday.

And here we thought the lunatics in Dr Strangelove were caricatures.

Maybe they were only the stuff of nightmares in 1964 but now the caricatures are real. The biggest problem with cyber war is that once it gets started between nations it is a matter of when, not if, it will destroy civilization -- cyber war being distinct from cyber spying and cyber crime.

NSA Snooping Was Only the Beginning. Meet the Spy Chief Leading Us Into Cyberwar

The Secret War


By James Bamford
June 12, 2013
Wired Magazine

[emphasis in the following excerpts is mine]


Never before has anyone in America’s intelligence sphere come close to [General Keith Alexander's] degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy. A four-star Army general, his authority extends across three domains: He is director of the world’s largest intelligence service, the National Security Agency; chief of the Central Security Service; and commander of the US Cyber Command. As such, he has his own secret military, presiding over the Navy’s 10th Fleet, the 24th Air Force, and the Second Army.


Alexander runs the nation’s cyberwar efforts, an empire he has built over the past eight years by insisting that the US’s inherent vulnerability to digital attacks requires him to amass more and more authority over the data zipping around the globe. In his telling, the threat is so mind-bogglingly huge that the nation has little option but to eventually put the entire civilian Internet under his protection, requiring tweets and emails to pass through his filters, and putting the kill switch under the government’s forefinger.

“What we see is an increasing level of activity on the networks,” he said at a recent security conference in Canada. “I am concerned that this is going to break a threshold where the private sector can no longer handle it and the government is going to have to step in.”

In its tightly controlled public relations, the NSA has focused attention on the threat of cyberattack against the US—the vulnerability of critical infrastructure like power plants and water systems, the susceptibility of the military’s command and control structure, the dependence of the economy on the Internet’s smooth functioning. Defense against these threats was the paramount mission trumpeted by NSA brass at congressional hearings and hashed over at security conferences.

But there is a flip side to this equation that is rarely mentioned: The military has for years been developing offensive capabilities, giving it the power not just to defend the US but to assail its foes. Using so-called cyber-kinetic attacks, Alexander and his forces now have the capability to physically destroy an adversary’s equipment and infrastructure, and potentially even to kill. Alexander—who declined to be interviewed for this article—has concluded that such cyberweapons are as crucial to 21st-century warfare as nuclear arms were in the 20th.

And he and his cyberwarriors have already launched their first attack. The cyberweapon that came to be known as Stuxnet was created and built by the NSA in partnership with the CIA and Israeli intelligence in the mid-2000s. The first known piece of malware designed to destroy physical equipment, Stuxnet was aimed at Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz. By surreptitiously taking control of an industrial control link known as a Scada (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system, the sophisticated worm was able to damage about a thousand centrifuges used to enrich nuclear material.

The success of this sabotage came to light only in June 2010, when the malware spread to outside computers. It was spotted by independent security researchers, who identified telltale signs that the worm was the work of thousands of hours of professional development. Despite headlines around the globe, officials in Washington have never openly acknowledged that the US was behind the attack. It wasn’t until 2012 that anonymous sources within the Obama administration took credit for it in interviews with The New York Times.

But Stuxnet is only the beginning. Alexander’s agency has recruited thousands of computer experts, hackers, and engineering PhDs to expand US offensive capabilities in the digital realm. The Pentagon has requested $4.7 billion for “cyberspace operations,” even as the budget of the CIA and other intelligence agencies could fall by $4.4 billion. It is pouring millions into cyberdefense contractors. And more attacks may be planned.


Now 61, Alexander has said he plans to retire in 2014; when he does step down he will leave behind an enduring legacy—a position of far-reaching authority and potentially Strangelovian powers at a time when the distinction between cyberwarfare and conventional warfare is beginning to blur. A recent Pentagon report made that point in dramatic terms. It recommended possible deterrents to a cyberattack on the US. Among the options: launching nuclear weapons.


Now if that's not enough clarity about the extreme danger posed by the U.S. "unleashing hell," here are a few quotes from a November 12, 2012 report at Information Week:

Cyber Weapon Friendly Fire: Chevron Stuxnet Fallout
by Mathew J. Schwartz

Malware's jump from Iranian uranium enrichment facility to energy giant highlights the downside to custom-made espionage malware -- its capability to infect friends as well as foes.


The pioneering Stuxnet computer virus, which was designed to attack a single Iranian uranium enrichment facility, went on to infect PCs around the world. Security experts have identified thousands of resulting Stuxnet infections. On Monday, multinational energy giant Chevron became the first U.S. company to admit that it, too, was infected by Stuxnet. Chevron found that some of its systems had been infected by Stuxnet soon after security firms discovered the virus in July 2010.

"I don't think the U.S. government even realized how far it had spread," Mark Koelmel, general manager of the earth sciences department at Chevron, told The Wall Street Journal. "I think the downside of what they did is going to be far worse than what they actually accomplished," he said.

What remains worrying about Stuxnet is the ease with which the custom malware was able to surreptitiously alter the behavior of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) used in industrial control systems. As the Chevron infection highlights, PLCs aren't just used in uranium refineries, but for a broad range of applications -- spanning oil and gas enrichment, manufacturing plant floors and even prisons. Furthermore, businesses might replace their industrial control systems only every 10 or 20 years. In the interim, what could safeguard PLC environments against future attacks of the Stuxnet variety, especially if launched by foreign adversaries?

"There are no automated defense systems that can protect power systems and other critical infrastructure resources against these advanced attacks," said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, in a SANS newsletter. "The only defense -- admittedly imperfect -- is radically improved technical skills."



Snowden reveals NSA spied on E.U. officials. Here's how Germany's SPIEGEL headlined the report:

 "Attacks from America: NSA spied on European Union Offices"

Yes; technically, the alleged NSA actions were an "attack" because they went beyond 'listening' to break-ins and interfering with computers.  As you might imagine the Europeans are very angry about the situation. So far the best comment is from Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn: "If these reports are true, it's disgusting. The United States would be better off monitoring its secret services rather than its allies."

A tip for the Obama administration and Obama news media: I would tell your propagandists to refrain from deploying the excuse, 'They do it too; everybody does it.' No, not everybody does this.

The Obama administration and NSA have been greatly exceeding their authorities for years.  They got away with so much because they could behind the veil of "Top Secret."  There was simply no one to call them out, until Edward Snowden, and he had to become a thief to do it.

From the SPIEGEL Online International edition, June 29, 2013:

Attacks from America: NSA spied on European Union Offices
By Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Fidelius Schmid and Holger Stark

America's NSA intelligence service allegedly targeted the European Union with its spying activities. According to SPIEGEL information, the US placed bugs in the EU representation in Washington and infiltrated its computer network. Cyber attacks were also perpetrated against Brussels in New York and Washington.

Information obtained by SPIEGEL shows that America's National Security Agency (NSA) not only conducted online surveillance of European citizens, but also appears to have specifically targeted buildings housing European Union institutions. The information appears in secret documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL has in part seen. A "top secret" 2010 document describes how the secret service attacked the EU's diplomatic representation in Washington.

The document suggests that in addition to installing bugs in the building in downtown Washington, DC, the EU representation's computer network was also infiltrated. In this way, the Americans were able to access discussions in EU rooms as well as emails and internal documents on computers.

The attacks on EU institutions show yet another level in the broad scope of the NSA's spying activities. For weeks now, new details about Prism and other surveillance programs have been emerging that had been compiled by whistleblower Snowden. Details have also emerged that the British intelligence service GCHQ operates a similar program under the name Tempora with which global telephone and Internet connections are monitored.

The documents SPIEGEL has seen indicate that the EU representation to the United Nations was attacked in a manner similar to the way surveillance was conducted against its offices in Washington. An NSU document dated September 2010 explicitly names the Europeans as a "location target"

The documents also indicate the US intelligence service was responsible for an electronic eavesdropping operation in Brussels. A little over five years ago, EU security experts noticed several telephone calls that were apparently targeting the remote maintenance system in the Justus Lipsius Building where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council is located. The calls were made to numbers that were very close to the one used for the remote administration of the building's telephone system.

Security officials managed to track the calls to NATO headquarters in the Brussels suburb of Evere. A precise analysis showed that the attacks on the telecommunications system had originated from a building complex separated from the rest of the NATO headquarters that is used by NSA experts.

A review of the remote maintenance system showed that it had been called and reached several times from precisely that NATO complex.


Wednesday, June 26


Much needed good news for freedom of speech advocates the world over!   From Marc Lemire's post about the historic vote in Canada this afternoon:

News is just breaking across Twitter that the Senate of Canada has finally passed third-reading on Bill C-304, which is an Act to repeal the censorship provision – Section 13 of the Canadian “Human Rights” Act.

Section 13 makes it an offence to "likely" "expose" privileged groups to "hatred and/or contempt." There are NO defences under Section 13!  Even truth and intent are considered irrelevant to a finding of discrimination. The law was enacted in 1977 in order to silence a man named John Ross Taylor for messages he recorded onto his telephone answering machine. In the intervening 32 years, not a single person who has been hauled up on Section 13 charges has ever been acquitted - a 100% conviction rateSection 13 has been used and abused since its inception.
More information to come tonight as information is posted to the Senate’s website.

Creeping Toward Turnkey Tyranny

The Creepy-state is not there to protect you or give you a higher standard of living or ensure justice or democracy, but to maintain a hierarchical public order from “disruption” (formerly known as “politics” or “democracy”). If the classical liberal ideal was the night watchman state, this state is the shadowy and ill-disposed watcher in the night.

Mark Safranski's March 2012 analysis for Zenpundit, The Era of the Creepy State is Here, was so prescient that a few days ago when I asked for his permission to publish it, I noted wryly that he might consider republishing it himself under the title 'Don't say I didn't warn you.' 

Yet it's clear he didn't gaze into a crystal ball.  He pulled together many threads of information that only when woven together gave a clear picture of the state of freedom in the United States of America.  In light of all that's unfolded since last Spring the only question about the accuracy of the picture is whether Mark was correct in observing that it wasn't too late to turn things around.  I don't have an answer to the question.   

The Era of the Creepy-State is Here
By Mark Safranski
March 6, 2012

George Orwell was more right than he knew.

Congress passed a law – by unanimous consent in the Senate and by a suspension of rules in the House – to permit the Federal government to arbitrarily arrest and imprison for up to ten years members of the serf class (formerly known as “American citizens”) whose presence annoys or offends specially designated members of the elite and foreign dignitaries. A list that will no doubt expand greatly in future legislation to include very “special” private citizens.

Think about that, future “Joe the Plumbers” or Cindy Sheehans, before you ask an impertinent question of your betters or wave your handmade cardboard sign. Is ten seconds of glory on your local ABC affiliate news at 5 o’clock worth that felony arrest record and federally funded anal exam?

No? Then kindly shut your mouth, sir. Learn your place.

Two nebbish Representatives, one Republican and one Democrat, distinguished only by their lack of legislative or political importance, sponsored the bill on behalf of the big boys who fast-tracked it under the radar (they learned from the SOPA debacle). Forget ideology or boasts about carrying a copy of the Constitution in the breast pocket of their suit, whether you are in an archconservative Congressional district or an ultraliberal one, almost every member of Congress voted “aye” to trash multiple amendments in the Bill of Rights.

Almost every one.

This is an accelerating trend in recent years and in particular, a bipartisan theme of the 112th Congress, which views Constitutional rights of nobodies as an anachronistic hindrance to the interests (or convenience) of their powerful and wealthy political supporters. Our elected officials and their backers increasingly share an oligarchic class interest that in important matters, trumps the Kabuki partisanship of  FOXnews and MSNBC and inculcates a technocratic admiration for the “efficiency” of select police states.

It is from this demographic-cultural root of incestuous corruption that our creeping – and increasingly creepy – manifestations of authoritarianism in American life springs. The SOPA/PIPA internet censorship bills, naked scanners at airports, Stasi-like expansion of expensively wasteful TSA security theater, proposed 24/7 monitoring of  every American’s online activities, migration of police powers to unaccountable private firms, replacement of elected municipal governments with “emergency managers” (favoring financiers over taxpayers), Federal agencies monitoring political critics , the Department of Justice retro-legalizing corporate racketeering, fraud, perjury and conspiracy on a national scale, plus other infringements of liberty or gross corruption that I could list, ad nauseum.

We have reached the point where we as Americans need to stop, step back from moment by moment fixation on nonsensical, “white noise” fake political issues like “contraception” ginned up to keep the partisans distracted and become seriously involved in determining the direction in which our nation is headed. Our elite are telegraphing their strong preference for a “soft dictatorship” but we still have time to check their ambitions and rein in their looting.

It is almost quaint these days to pick up Friedrich von Hayek’s classic,  The Road to Serfdom and thumb through it. The libertarian antistatists of the 20th century were so focused on the clear and present dangers of totalitarianism that the idea of a weak state that endangered liberty through a mixture of corruption and regulatory capture eluded them. The Westphalian state at it’s apex was so overweening that the enemy of free societies, after foreign monsters like Hitler and Stalin, could be ambitious intellectual pygmies like Harold Laski or Tom Hayden. The state was so omnipotent that even it’s efforts at benevolence, to build a “Great Society” of the Welfare State were injurious to individual freedom because the expanse of statism crowded and weakened civil society , the market and private life. The argument gained political traction because, to varying degrees, it was true and looked prophetic when the Welfare-state began to crash economically in the 1970's on stagflation.

Give the Welfare-state liberals and Social Democrats of the past their due though, their intentions by their own lights were benign. They wanted to make a safer, more secure, more equal, more just life through a more powerful state (whether that was a good idea or a realistic endeavor was the central political question between right and left). The current elite in comparison is so inferior in moral character and overconfident in their abilities that they may soon make us yearn for the former’s return.

What have now in our ruling class,  are the  builders of a Creepy-state and their intentions are not benign, except toward themselves, for as long as the looting of the American economy can last.

Unlike the Welfare-state, the Creepy-state, shot through with corruption, is  not omnipotent  because it is to be the servant and gendarme of the emerging oligarchy and not their master – but it is to be omniscient and omnipresent, constantly watching, monitoring, investigating, recording, interrogating, coercing, sorting, muzzling, gatekeeping and shearing the sheep on behalf of the shepherds.

Or the wolves.

The Creepy-state is not there to protect you or give you a higher standard of living or ensure justice or democracy, but to maintain a hierarchical public order from “disruption” (formerly known as “politics” or “democracy”). If the classical liberal ideal was the night watchman state, this state is the shadowy and ill-disposed watcher in the night.

The American political elite, Democrat and Republican, Conservative and Liberal, are largely in consensus that the government should, in regard to the American people:

Read your email
Listen to your phone calls
Track your movements on GPS
Track your online activity
Track your spending
Track your political activity
Read your medical records
Read your financial records
Scan your body
Scan your house
Scan your DNA
Keep you under video surveillance in public
Detain you at random in public places for security checks
Close off public spaces for private use
Seize private property for private use
Censor your speech
Block your access to judicial relief
Determine your educational and career path
Regulate your diet, place of residence, lifestyle and living standards (ever downwards)
Charge you with secret crimes for breaking secret regulations
Share or leak information about you at will

Is this the America we wish for our children or grandchildren? One that epitomizes the values of our Constitution or Declaration of Independence, or is it some kind of tawdry and shameful dime store fascism of a small Latin American country? Perhaps life is finally imitating fiction?

Fortunately, it is not too late. Irrevocable changes in the constitutional order have yet to be engineered. Our politicians are followers, not leaders here. They are a small and cowardly lot for the most part and will recoil in fear from this authoritarian ethos if a sufficiently large number of elected officials are thrown out of office at once. We can still roll this back – at least the most egregiously anti-American aspects – if we get sufficiently angry come November.

Self-interest is their only lodestone.


Tuesday, June 25

Make that 28

On June 11 Infowars posted 27 Edward Snowden Quotes About U.S. Government Spying That Should Send A Chill Up Your Spine (H/T Gates of Vienna). The quotes are indeed chilling, especially when you see them bunched together.  But you know the expression "My blood ran cold?"  My blood ran cold after I read one of Snowden's answers during his June 17 Q&A session at the Guardian.  I even had to put on a sweater to stop the chills; okay, I also turned down the air conditioner. 

I thought about the words Snowden had typed then asked, "Is he talking about illegal surveillance or an illegal cyberwar?"  There was no reply from the Great Ether.  But if I hadn't heard James Bamford talk to Charlie Rose about the NSA and cyberwar or Jim Himes talk about the same on the National Journal, the question wouldn't have occurred to me, and that's why my blood ran cold.  People fight at the level they can see. Edward Snowden was looking at things from a very high and secret level while he worked at NSA, and what he saw might have spooked him.

Here's what Snowden wrote:
I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. Congress hasn't declared war on the countries - the majority of them are our allies - but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. [...]
Then again I could have read too much into his remarks.  But I can't shake the question they raised in my mind.


This seems like a good time to mention Steve Diamond's latest book

I haven't read the book yet but I do know that Steve is very knowledgeable about what happened in Nicaragua.  It's time more Americans learned the story.  From the review at Amazon:

"The victory of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua in 1979 opened up a major new battleground in the Cold War between east and west. That larger conflict caused many to ignore or misjudge the domestic battle for democratic rights carried out by ordinary Nicaraguans, first against the Somoza dictatorship, and then against the Frente Sandinista, which led the Revolution.

"In Rights and Revolution: The Rise and Fall of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Movement, political scientist and legal scholar Stephen F. Diamond examines the conflict inside Nicaragua from a viewpoint that is critical of the FSLN, which was allied closely with Cuba and the Soviet Union, and of the United States, which formed a proxy army to overthrow the FSLN regime.

"Such an independent viewpoint yields important and original insights into the complex relationship between authoritarianism and democracy in the developing world.

"Stephen F. Diamond is Associate Professor of Law at Santa Clara University’s School of Law. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of London (Birkbeck College), his J.D. from Yale Law School and his B.A. in Development Studies from U.C. Berkeley. He has been a visiting professor at Cornell Law School and a visiting scholar at Harvard, Stanford and U.C. San Diego. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security.

"He is the author of From “Che” to China: Labor and Authoritarianism in the New Global Economy (Vandeplas 2009) and co-editor with Lance Compa of Human Rights, Labor Rights and International Trade: Law and Policy Perspectives (University of Pennsylvania 1996 and 2003)."


Monday, June 24

Obama's Insider Threat program: Are you having a bad hair day? I might have to report you as a potential traitor to the United States.

Now just see: This is the problem with accusing your political opponents of being Nazis, which we do here in the USA at the drop of a hat. Now that a presidential administration and its military have actually copied the Nazi regime's approach to quashing public debate, nobody wants to hear it. It's the Cry Wolf! syndrome.

Happily Jake Tapper's discussion with Glenn Greenwald this afternoon on CNN's The Lead has given tremendous publicity to a June 20 investigative report by Marisa Taylor and Jonathan S. Landay for McClatchy Newspapers titled Obama’s crackdown views leaks as aiding enemies of U.S.

The report, which had flown under the radar of the mainstream media's attention until now, spells out the truly horrifying details of President Obama's Insider Threat program. Now the big question is whether the McClatchy reporters will be charged with violations of the Espionage Act for reporting so extensively on the Insider Threat program.

Here are quotes from the report; emphasis throughout is mine:

WASHINGTON — Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.

“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

As part of the initiative, Obama ordered greater protection for whistleblowers who use the proper internal channels to report official waste, fraud and abuse, but that’s hardly comforting to some national security experts and current and former U.S. officials. They worry that the Insider Threat Program won’t just discourage whistleblowing but will have other grave consequences for the public’s right to know and national security.

The program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for “indicators” that include stress, divorce and financial problems.

“It was just a matter of time before the Department of Agriculture or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) started implementing, ‘Hey, let’s get people to snitch on their friends.’ The only thing they haven’t done here is reward it,” said Kel McClanahan, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security law. “I’m waiting for the time when you turn in a friend and you get a $50 reward.”

The Defense Department anti-leak strategy obtained by McClatchy spells out a zero-tolerance policy. Security managers, it says, “must” reprimand or revoke the security clearances – a career-killing penalty – of workers who commit a single severe infraction or multiple lesser breaches “as an unavoidable negative personnel action.”

Employees must turn in themselves and others for failing to report breaches. “Penalize clearly identifiable failures to report security infractions and violations, including any lack of self-reporting,” the strategic plan says.

The Obama administration already was pursuing an unprecedented number of leak prosecutions, and some in Congress – long one of the most prolific spillers of secrets – favor tightening restrictions on reporters’ access to federal agencies, making many U.S. officials reluctant to disclose even unclassified matters to the public.

The policy, which partly relies on behavior profiles, also could discourage creative thinking and fuel conformist “group think” of the kind that was blamed for the CIA’s erroneous assessment that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction, a judgment that underpinned the 2003 U.S. invasion.

“The real danger is that you get a bland common denominator working in the government,” warned Ilana Greenstein, a former CIA case officer who says she quit the agency after being falsely accused of being a security risk.
“You don’t get people speaking up when there’s wrongdoing. You don’t get people who look at things in a different way and who are willing to stand up for things. What you get are people who toe the party line, and that’s really dangerous for national security.”

[here I skip over several paragraphs so be sure to read the entire report]

Obama in November approved “minimum standards” giving departments and agencies considerable leeway in developing their insider threat programs, leading to a potential hodgepodge of interpretations. He instructed them to not only root out leakers but people who might be prone to “violent acts against the government or the nation” and “potential espionage.”

The Pentagon established its own sweeping definition of an insider threat as an employee with a clearance who “wittingly or unwittingly” harms “national security interests” through “unauthorized disclosure, data modification, espionage, terrorism, or kinetic actions resulting in loss or degradation of resources or capabilities.”

“An argument can be made that the rape of military personnel represents an insider threat. Nobody has a model of what this insider threat stuff is supposed to look like,” said the senior Pentagon official, explaining that inside the Defense Department “there are a lot of chiefs with their own agendas but no leadership.”

The Department of Education, meanwhile, informs employees that co-workers going through “certain life experiences . . . might turn a trusted user into an insider threat.” Those experiences, the department says in a computer training manual, include “stress, divorce, financial problems” or “frustrations with co-workers or the organization.”

An online tutorial titled “Treason 101” teaches Department of Agriculture and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees to recognize the psychological profile of spies.

A Defense Security Service online pamphlet lists a wide range of “reportable” suspicious behaviors, including working outside of normal duty hours. While conceding that not every behavior “represents a spy in our midst,” the pamphlet adds that “every situation needs to be examined to determine whether our nation’s secrets are at risk.”

The Defense Department, traditionally a leading source of media leaks, is still setting up its program, but it has taken numerous steps. They include creating a unit that reviews news reports every day for leaks of classified defense information and implementing new training courses to teach employees how to recognize security risks, including “high-risk” and “disruptive” behaviors among co-workers, according to Defense Department documents reviewed by McClatchy.

“It’s about people’s profiles, their approach to work, how they interact with management. Are they cheery? Are they looking at or The Onion during their lunch break? This is about ‘The Stepford Wives,’ ” said a second senior Pentagon official, referring to online publications and a 1975 movie about robotically docile housewives. The official said he wanted to remain anonymous to avoid being punished for criticizing the program.

The emphasis on certain behaviors reminded Greenstein of her employee orientation with the CIA, when she was told to be suspicious of unhappy co-workers.

“If someone was having a bad day, the message was watch out for them,” she said.



Out with Obama's China Pivot; in with the Snowden Pivot

Since the Afghan War and Arab Spring ended at the bottom of Washington's crisis list and the Pentagon nixed an air war against Assad it's been slim pickings for think tank wonks who ply opinion on international matters to the press and Congress.  They can put away the barrista aprons and set aside the manual for operating the computerized cash registers at fast food franchises, which are only slightly more complicated than a submarine launch console.  Edward Snowden's globe hopping has launched so many Diplomatic Incidents for America's President that with any luck the opinion experts can stave off employment at Starbucks and Taco Bell for the rest of the year.

This is what hog heaven looks like to policy wonks:

Snowden’s Flight Sets Back Obama’s China, Russia Outreach

By Terry Atlas & Nicole Gaouette
June 24, 2013
Bloomberg News

President Barack Obama found that his personal efforts to shore up relations with the leaders of China and Russia failed to pay off as fugitive Edward Snowden arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport from Hong Kong en route to a permanent refuge, perhaps in Ecuador.

Obama met just this month with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of Eight Summit. The flight by Snowden, a self-described whistle-blower evading U.S. Espionage Act charges, comes as a reversal for that diplomacy. U.S. lawmakers yesterday criticized China and particularly Russia, warning of consequences for failing to hold Snowden for extradition.

"The efforts by the Obama administration in Palm Springs, California, with the Chinese, and then in Northern Ireland with the Russians to find areas of common agreement have been dealt a pretty big setback,” said Bruce Riedel, a 30-year veteran of the CIA and director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution, a Washington policy-research group.

Further, the involvement of China and Russia raises questions about their relationship with Snowden and what information he may provide them, Jane Harman, president of the Wilson Center, another Washington research group, said in an interview.

“Clearly, he now is a pawn in a big-power game, and I think that game is way too big for him,” said Harman, a former Democratic congresswoman from California who served on the House intelligence committee.

Information Source

Snowden wouldn’t be permitted to make his moves without the knowledge of senior Chinese and Russian officials, suggesting those governments may see him as an information source, Riedel said.

“The story line has changed pretty dramatically today from a single whistleblower to maybe someone who’s been working with foreign intelligence agencies in the last few weeks, but a lot of question marks will have to be raised about what he’s been up to,” Riedel said.

U.S. lawmakers yesterday criticized China for not preventing Snowden from leaving Hong Kong and urged Russia’s Putin not to protect Snowden, a former contract computer systems technician for the National Security Agency who has identified himself as the source of leaks about U.S. surveillance of telephone calls and Internet traffic.

Consequences Seen

“What’s infuriating here” is Putin “aiding and abetting Snowden’s escape,” New York Senator Charles Schumer, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship.”

The Russians should know “there will be consequences if they harbor this guy,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and member of the Armed Services Committee, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program.

Still, the U.S. has many other matters on its agenda with China and Russia that the Obama administration may not want to jeopardize over Snowden, said Barry Pavel, a vice president at the Atlantic Council, a Washington policy group.

“The Obama administration may decide to play hardball because of the potential damage to national security,” Pavel said in an interview. The more likely course, he said, is that the administration will continue to “try to work with these countries to strengthen cooperation on a broad range of issues because there’s a lot at stake” in areas such as the global economy, the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, and the civil war in Syria, he said.

Intelligence Value

The U.S. intelligence community is concerned that Snowden has intelligence value to nations such as Russia and China beyond documents he allegedly has stolen on a thumb drive and laptop computers, said two U.S. officials who asked not to be identified discussing intelligence matters. He also knows about top secret communications intercepts, decrypted messages and other electronic intelligence, as well as vulnerabilities of communications systems and NSA workers, they said.

Snowden landed in Moscow yesterday after fleeing Hong Kong, which had rejected a U.S. warrant for his arrest. The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said on its website he is bound for Ecuador “via a safe route for the purposes of asylum.” Snowden has requested political asylum, Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino Aroca, said in a posting on Twitter.

Hong Kong’s Role

Snowden left Hong Kong “through a lawful and normal channel,” the city said in a statement. U.S. documents seeking his arrest didn’t comply with legal requirements and there was thus “no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong,” according to the statement.

China, which resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, can intervene in extraditions from the city if it relates to China’s defense or foreign affairs. Schumer said he sees “the hand of Beijing” involved.

“China clearly had a role in this, in my view,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said yesterday on CBS’s Face the Nation.

"I don’t think this was just Hong Kong without Chinese acquiescence,” she said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s press service, which said it was aware of reports that Snowden is transiting in Moscow, declined to comment further.

Ecuador’s Role

It is not known for certain if Snowden will head to Ecuador, which has also offered asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has been holed up at Ecuador’s embassy in London for more than a year trying to avert extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning on allegations of rape and sexual molestation.

“It really is a way of asserting their independence and snubbing their nose at the United States, and increases their credentials among their nationalist followers,” said Susan Kaufman Purcell, director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.  [Pundita Note: I think Susan means "thumbing" their nose]

Ecuador risks losing U.S. trade preferences, which will expire next month if not renewed by Congress.

In offering asylum to Snowden, Ecuadorean President Rafael Vicente Correa may be trying to solidify his credentials as the next leader of the group of anti-American countries once led by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Purcell said.

A U.S.-educated economics professor whose father spent time in an American jail for smuggling cocaine, Correa has accused Obama of carrying out a “witch hunt” against Assange.

“There’s no chance he’ll hand Snowden over to the U.S.,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. “It would completely contradict everything he’s done since taking power.”

His action may cost Ecuador’s economy, hurting a chance to win congressional renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act that provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for products including flowers, shrimp and fresh produce.

The U.S is Ecuador’s largest export market. The U.S. imported $9.5 billion in goods from Ecuador and exported $6.7 billion in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

(Note that the NSA Affair has been recast as the Snowden Affair and that the Snowden Affair has been reshaped so that there is no way whatsoever for anyone except a wonk to make sense out of it.)


Sunday, June 23

Edward Snowden is America's real Goodwill Ambassador

In his ode to a louse that had settled on a church lady's bonnet the Scottish poet Robert Burns observed, "O wad some Power the gift tae gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!" For readers who have trouble with Olde Scottish he was asking the Lord to give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us.

The Lord has not seen fit to bestow this most wonderful gift on the U.S. government, and so today we find Official Washington blithely unaware that it's making an ass of itself on the world stage in its blinkered efforts to procure Edward Snowden at any cost, to include insulting the ingelligence of millions of people the world over who know very well that he's a hero.

It's also lost on Washington that Snowden is seen by those citizens as an American hero and inspiration for their efforts to stand up to oppressive government. Just as the import of the historic rally in Hong Kong, which saw hundreds of Chinese gathered in a driving rain to support an American, has been ignored by Washington.

Edward Snowden is the real deal: an American defender of values that Washington only gives lip service to while betraying them at every turn in the name of expediency and national security. And for this affront to institutionalized hypocrisy Snowden must, as Senator Lindsey Graham told Chris Wallace on FNC this evening, "be chased to the ends of the earth." In the name of national security, of course.

This same Senator is among those members of Congress who spent years covering for Pakistan's military leaders even though they knew the military was orchestrating the murder of American troops in Afghanistan.

So Senator Graham wants the United States to be more secure, does he? Then get out of Edward Snowden's way.


LAST WEEK: U.S. bullies Hong Kong to quickly extradite Ed Snowden. TODAY: Hong Kong paper publishes details from Snowden about NSA spying on millions of Chinese text messages, and Hong Kong authorities allow Snowden to leave for undisclosed destination via Moscow

On June 22 at 6:00 EDT, the Washington Post reported that the Obama had been "publicly pressuring" -- bullying, in other words -- Hong Kong's government to hurry up and extradite Edward Snowden. Guess what happened next.

Remember that classified information and evidence Snowden shared with the South China Morning Post  several days ago about U.S. cyberspying on China, and which SCMP graciously didn't publish,so as not to create an International Incident?

On June 23 SCMP published what Snowden had told them, which included information that NSA had collected millions of text messages sent by Chinese. 

Then guess what happened? Hong Kong authorities let Edward Snowden leave for an undisclosed country via Moscow, "in a move bound to infuriate the U.S.," the Economic Times of India couldn't resist adding.

Now what? I hope any plans the Obama Administration has for retaliating against Hong Kong's refusal to kowtow don't include firing Hellfire missiles into the SCMP offices. The commie rag published by America's great enemy employs Reginald Chua, former deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and former editor of The Wall Street Journal's Asia edition, as its editor-in-chief.

But the point at this moment, for Americans, is that NSA chief Gen. Alexander looked members of the House Intelligence Committee straight in the eye last week and said NSA didn't have the capacity to spy on text messages.

Carrier pigeons, anyone? At least we'll be able to spot NSA intercepting the birds.


Friday, June 21

Criminal charges filed against Edward Snowden

The Washington Post broke the story at 6:04 PM ET:
U.S. charges Edward Snowden with espionage in leaks about NSA surveillance programs

Federal prosecutors have filed a sealed criminal complaint against Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked a trove of documents about top-secret surveillance programs, and the United States has asked Hong Kong to detain him on a provisional arrest warrant, according to U.S. officials.

Snowden was charged with espionage, theft and conversion of government property, the officials said.

The complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, a jurisdiction where Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered and a district with a long track record of prosecuting cases with national security implications.
From Bob Orr's report for CBS Evening News (6:30 PM ET), the government has not made public all the charges but now has 60 days to file more detailed charges.  From Jennifer Griffen report for Fox News 7:05 PM:  Government asking Hong Kong Snowden to be detained on a provisional arrest warrant.


Thursday, June 20

Classifed documents reveal "top secret rules that allow NSA to use US data without a warrant." New Guardian report.

The documents blow assurances from Obama, NSA, FBI to Congress and American public out of the water.  Also from the Guardian report, filed this afternoon by Glenn Greenwald and James Ball: "The documents show that discretion as to who is actually targeted lies directly with the NSA's analysts."

I seem to recall that Edward Snowden made this allegation during his interview with Greenwald and was called a liar by NSA and American other 'security' officials.

By the way, Google News isn't featuring  the dynamite Guardian report, despite its vital importance to Americans, and even though major U.S. press are reporting on it.

Ed Snowden is a transgender CIA operative from outer space: America's Tin Foil Hat Tribe gets to the bottom of the NSA Affair

Alex Seitz-Wald has collected the wilder conspiracy theories about Edward Snowden; the result is his laugh out loud funny Here Come the Edward Snowden Truthers for Salon magazine. Seitz-Wald's romp on America's wackiest side is a reminder to me and all those alarmed by portrayals of Snowden as a traitor and spy that we need to lighten up. Trust the fertile imagination of America's conspiracy theorists to transform a serious issue into a comedy of confusion worthy of Shakespeare at his drunkest:
Conspiracists are reflexively skeptical of the “official narrative,” even when it should confirm their worldview. Snowden should be a victory for them, but because the mainstream media and the government are corroborating much of what Snowden leaked, the mainstream account immediately becomes suspicious.
Of course Edward Snowden is not a transgender CIA operative from another planet. He's Neo. Daniel Ellsberg is Morpheus; we know this because he announced Snowden is The One. (Edward Snowden: saving us from the United Stasi of America). Obviously this means Agent Smith is General Keith B. Alexander and that the story about the The Matrix being a creation of sentient machines is propaganda cooked up by the real creator of The Matrix, the NSA.

Don't ask me how I figure these things out. Sometimes (striking her hands together)] it's like a thunderclap. Sometimes I see a burning bush.

What is not a figment of anyone's imagination is the situation that Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) described almost poetically last week for the National Journal: "Tower after glass tower" in Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Northern Virginia. The glass-sided office buildings springing up like ike mushrooms are, as Himes explained, stuffed with private contractors hired by NSA to wage America's cyberwar. This is an undeclared war and, something like The Matrix, it's all around us but can't be seen. It's a war that has made Washington, DC and its environs a boom town and provided employment for many American veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

This is also the most dangerous type of war because it's amorphous. There are no rules of engagement because the war has never been clearly defined, let alone made a topic for U.S. public policy discussion. And it's a war that has placed very powerful algorithims under the control of a civilian government that can't even do basic arithmetic.

One of the questions in the wake of Ed Snowden's revelations about NSA's draconian phone/email data collection is whether expenses for this war have been swept under the rug of "surveillance." Telling the American public that for its own good the answer is classified is not acceptable. And diverting attention from the question by accusing Snowden of being a traitor isn't acceptable, either.


Wednesday, June 19

Other NSA whistleblowers back Snowden's allegations

Thanks to all concerned at USA Today for bringing in this important project. 
Here's the text version from the June 16 roundtable discussion.

Petition to pardon Edward Snowden

Sticks in my craw to have to ask for a pardon for him, and given the accusations of treason against him by powerful members of Congress I very much doubt a pardon would be offered. But just to let you know there is a petition at the White House site.  About 14,000 more signatures are needed by July 9 to meet the 100,000 threshold requirement for Obama to consider the petition.

It’s now criminal in the United States to expose the crimes of the state (Updated)


More on NSA Affair from Counterpunch:

The Last Check on Abuses of Power: The National Security State and the Whistleblower; Melvin A. Goodman; June 19, 2013

NSA Spying and the Fourth AmendmentSnowden’s Constitution, Obama’s Constitution, and Criminal Law; Rob Hager; June 17, 2013

Public Enemy Number One: The Public; Keven Carson; June 17, 2013

The NSA and the rest of us: Perspectives on the Surveillance Scandal; Lawrence Davidson; June 17, 2013

There are additional articles on the theme as well at Counterpunch, all worth the read.

The Conscience of Edward Snowden

 June 18, 2013

Courage Is Contagious
As the revelations of mass NSA surveillance raised shock-waves around the globe, 29-year old Edward Snowden came forward to identify himself as the one behind the largest leak in NSA history. His video interview with the Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald went viral and the the world saw and heard the man who left his life behind to expose this insidious global spying program. Snowdenspoke of the motives behind his action:

“I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity…. My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
As Snowden himself expected, the calls for aggressive prosecution quickly rolled out from Washington. Republican speaker of the House John Boehner called him a “traitor”. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for his prosecution. Diane Feinstein, head of the senate intelligence committee denounced him for what she called his ‘act of treason’.

The backdrop for this is incessant drumbeat of the war-on-whistleblowers that the Obama administration has engaged in constantly since he took office. This president has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined. The inevitable political and media backlash poured out from corporate media as they demonized him by painting him as narcissistic and grandiose. An article in the New Yorker characterized his deed as speaking more to his ego and depicted it as reckless dumping of necessary secrets, when in truth he had carefully examined what was to be released and shared that authority of judgment with responsible journalists. David Brooks of New York Times Op-Ed columnist described him as a “solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state”. Distortion flows freely with character assassination just as it did with the personal attacks on Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.

Yet, the general public saw it differently. After the Guardian interview unmasked him, Snowden temporarily dropped out of sight. He then stepped out into the limelight in Hong Kong and spoke to a South China Morning Post reporter: “I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American, …  “I believe in freedom of expression. I acted in good faith but it is only right that the public form its own opinion.”

According to Reuters/Ipsos poll, roughly one in three Americans sees this former security contractor behind the exposure of the NSA surveillance program as a patriot and feels he should not be prosecuted. Associate editor at Reason magazine reported a poll that shows more Americans approve of Snowden than approve of Congress.
The unprecedented and egregious erosion of civil liberties is ever more out in the open for all to see. More and more people are realizing how the stale government narrative of ‘national security’ is simply used to cover abuses of the Constitution and the right to privacy.

As of June 11, already over 30,000 people had signed a thank-you note to this young NSA whistleblower - a website set up by Right after Snowden emerged in public, protesters around the world rallied to show support for the whistleblower. In New York, people gathered in Union Square with the message “I stand with Edward Snowden”. In Hong Kong, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets on Saturday to stand up against US surveillance policies and voice support for this former CIA employee.
Praises for this young man’s action came from older generations; those who remember a time when there were laws effectively protecting whistleblowers who revealed government crimes. Retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern noted Snowden’s “uncommon courage, uncommon devotion to the Constitution” and shared his hope for a future society:
“It’s very, very encouraging to see that young people like that have been able to do some of the things that have been very difficult for people of my generation to do because we have been so hidebound behind secrecy strictures.”

Daniel Ellsberg recently spoke at a panel discussion on “Our Vanishing Civil Liberties” in Berkeley. This former military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, thus exposed the criminality of the Vietnam war spoke of how Snowden made him proud to be an American and that this NSA leak was worth risking one’s life, the same way Ellsberg felt when releasing the Pentagon papers 40 years ago.

In 2010, after the release of more than 91,000 classified military records on the war in Afghanistan, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke about the inspiration behind his work:

“What keeps us going is our sources. These are the people, presumably who are inside these organizations, who want change. They are both heroic figures taking much greater risks than I ever do, and they are pushing and showing that they want change in, in fact, an extremely effective way”. (July 28, 2010)

The WikiLeaks motto, “Courage is contagious” is showing itself to be true. Behind the NSA leaks are those who are infected by courage. In an interview on DemocracyNow!, Glenn Greenwald spoke of how he was inspired by Snowden’s deed:
“….To watch what he did, because he knows … because he knows exactly how the government treats whistleblowers, and yet he went forward and did it anyway. And what I really hope is that his courage is contagious, that people get inspired by his example, as I have been, and decide that they ought to demand that their right
s not be abridged and that they have the full authority to stand up to the United States government without being afraid.”

This exposure of NSA abuse of power would not have been possible without the integrity and bravery of one woman. Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Laura Poitras was the first media contact on the story. She was behind the camera for Snowden’s interview at hotel in Hong Kong. When asked by a Salon reporter about whether she was concerned about becoming a target of government investigation, Poitras said:

“It’s not OK that we have a secret court that has secret interpretations of secret laws; what kind of democracy is that? I felt like, this is a fight worth having. If there’s fallout, if there’s blow back, I would absolutely do it again, because I think this information should be public. Whatever part I had in helping to do that I think is a service. People take risks. And I’m not the one who’s taking the most in this case”.

One man’s brave action leads to another. Before Snowden, there were four former National Security Agency analysts who were alarmed by widespread government surveillance: Thomas Drake, William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis. Thomas Drake criticized the court that authorized the surveillance. In speaking of Snowden, he observed:

“We are seeing an unprecedented campaign against whistleblowers and truth-tellers: it’s now criminal to expose the crimes of the state. Under this relentless assault by the Obama administration, I am the only person who has held them off and preserved his freedom. All the other whistleblowers I know have served time in jail, are facing jail or are already incarcerated or in prison. That has been my burden. I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to defending life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I didn’t want surveillance to take away my soul, and I don’t want anyone else to have to live it. For that, I paid a very high price. And Edward Snowden will, too. But I have my freedom, and what is the price for freedom? What future do we want to keep?”

John Kiriakou became the first CIA officer to confirm the use of torture and to face jail time for any reason relating to the U.S. torture program. Before going to jail, he spoke of his decision:

“I took my oath seriously. My oath was to the Constitution. On my first day in the CIA, I put my right hand up, and I swore to uphold the Constitution. And to me, torture is unconstitutional, and it’s something that we should not be in the business of doing … If you see waste, fraud, abuse or illegality, shout it from the rooftops, whether it’s internally or to Congress.”
Jeremy Hammond is another young man sitting behind bars for more than a year for revealing that this insidious network of corporate and government surveillance has been used on activists. When he recently plead guilty to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) for his role in Stratfor hack, he made a statement: “I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right.”

 On Monday, Edward Snowden appeared online to participate in a Q and A hosted by the Gurdian. Snowden spoke of how the Obama administration’s aggressive response to whistle-blowers will only encourage better whistle-blowers and how ones conscience is something that cannot be stopped:

“Binney, Drake, Kiriakou, and Manning are all examples of how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope, and skill involved in future disclosures. Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they’ll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it. Instead, these draconian responses simply build better whistleblowers.”

These brave individuals were all driven by a common belief that the public always has a right to know about the wrongdoings of governments and corporations. These people stepped forward and sacrificed their safety to bring vital information into the light of day. This allegiance to ordinary people and their right to determine their future has motivated many whistleblowers to overcome fear and act out of conscience.

The only fear Snowden expressed in the aftermath of his disclosures was that he might fail to overcome public apathy and miss the chance to trigger a worldwide debate: “The great fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change.”

Snowden is not alone. This was also the primary wish expressed by another brave young whistleblower. Private Bradley Manning who is now being court marshaled, wrote in his chat log: “I want people to see the truth, because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public …  hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms…if not…than we’re doomed…as a species.”

In his speech to the military court in Ft. Meade about his motivations for leaking over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks, Manning made clear that he wanted to show the American public the true costs of war and spark a debate on the role of the military and foreign policies.

Glenn Greenwald’s follow-up article on June 14 on NSA story shared promising signs of how Snowden’s worst fears have so far not unfolded. It reports how Snowden’s revelations “are met with anything but the apathy he feared” as it sparked lively debate among the public, Congress and journalists.

Using documents evidencing the surveillance, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit over the NSA massive spying program. The revelations of the Obama administration transgression also sent an alarm internationally regarding this immediate global threat to freedom of speech and privacy. Concerns about possible US extradition of Snowden have caused countries to step forward to help the whistleblower. National Journal reports a variety of responses around the world to possible US retribution on Snowden. A Kremlin spokesman said Russia will consider asylum if he seeks it. The head of France’s far-right party, Marine Le Pen demanded France let Snowden immigrate into the country. The Iceland Pirate Party is also working to let him in. In regards to a possible asylum request for Snowden, Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo PatiƱo spoke of the possibility for a similar arrangement as they made with Assange and that the Ecuadorian government would certainly consider the request.

Protesters in Hong Kong handed over a letter criticizing the National Security Agency’s internet surveillance program and urged the Chinese government not to extradite the NSA whistleblower. The poll results that came after the protest in the Sunday Morning Postrevealed half of people in Hong Kong don’t want Snowden to be extradited to the US and that public sentiment in Hong Kong is growing against the US government.

Julian Assange warned in his book Cypherpunks of this ever increasing surveillance state. Hailing Snowden as a hero from the London Ecuadorian embassy, Assange noted that these waves of courage are changing the tide; “I think we are winning, and we are a part of a new international body politic that is developing, thanks to the internet,”.

Snowden’s noble deed was a clear-eyed attempt to uphold the Constitution. The highest law of the land that he followed is more than a rhetorical ideal. His conviction is based on the premise that the Constitution was written for the people. It starts out “We the People” -not We the Kings, or We the Presidents. It indicates that people are to be the authors of their own society. Snowden gave information to people in the world, especially to Americans to see what their own government is doing, because he believed people need to be informed. During the Guardian’s Q and A session, he noted how “the consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed.”

After moving to Hong Kong, Snowden said in the interview with the South China Morning Post “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality, … My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate.” His actions and words clearly speak of his faith in the people and that their conscience alone can determine justice and the direction of the future. Leaking the truth through courageous acts of these ordinary people is what stirs vital public debate.
We are standing at a truly significant moment in history. From Ellsberg to Manning to Snowden; whistleblowers that stand up for the public interest show how courage is contagious. We now have a great opportunity to open the court of public opinion. In the end, fear will never prevail.

Nozomi Hayase is a contributing writer to Culture Unplugged, and a global citizen blogger, at Journaling Between Worlds. She can be reached at:

"New Coronavirus 'Eerily' Like SARS"

Monday, June 17

Obama and Sensenbrenner : two very different views of U.S. domestic spying program

Quotes below are from Congressman (R-WI) Jim Sensenbrenner's June 9 op-ed for The Guardian titled, This Abuse of the Patriot Act Must End:

"President Obama falsely claims Congress authorised all NSA surveillance. In fact, our law was designed to protect liberties."

"The administration claims authority to sift through details of our private lives because the Patriot Act says that it can. I disagree. I authored the Patriot Act, and this is an abuse of that law."

"In his press conference on Friday, President Obama described the massive collection of phone and digital records as "two programs that were originally authorized by Congress, have been repeatedly authorized by Congress". But Congress has never specifically authorized these programs, and the Patriot Act was never intended to allow the daily spying the Obama administration is conducting.

"To obtain a business records order like the one the administration obtained, the Patriot Act requires the government to prove to a special federal court, known as a Fisa court, that it is complying with specific guidelines set by the attorney general and that the information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation. Intentionally targeting US citizens is prohibited.

 "Technically, the administration's actions were lawful insofar as they were done pursuant to an order from the Fisa court. But based on the scope of the released order, both the administration and the Fisa court are relying on an unbounded interpretation of the act that Congress never intended.

"The released Fisa order requires daily productions of the details of every call that every American makes, as well as calls made by foreigners to or from the United States. Congress intended to allow the intelligence communities to access targeted information for specific investigations. How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?

"This is well beyond what the Patriot Act allows."

Again, those are just excerpts, but now I want to turn to President Barack Obama's replies to Charlie Rose during Mr Rose's interview with him (see the Washington Post website for links in the report) for PBS:

Obama says administration making ‘right trade-offs’ in surveillance programs
By Juliet Eilperin
Published: MONDAY, JUNE 17, 8:41 PM ET
The Washington Post

President Obama defended his administration’s right to engage in extensive surveillance of U.S. communications in an interview with PBS host Charlie Rose, saying the programs had disrupted multiple terrorist plots and had adequate checks and balances. During the interview — which was conducted Sunday before Obama left for Europe and was set to air Monday night — the president took pains to distinguish his national security approach to those of former president George W. Bush and former vice president Richard B. Cheney.

“The whole point of my concern, before I was president — because some people say, ‘Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.’ Dick Cheney sometimes says, ‘Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock and barrel,’ ” Obama said, according to a transcript provided by PBS.

 “My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances?”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Obama argued, provided sufficient oversight of the National Security Agency’s activities and said the government was “making the right tradeoffs” in balancing privacy rights with national security prerogatives.

“What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your e-mails,” he added, before Rose interjected, “And have not.”

“And have not,” Obama reiterated.

“They cannot and have not, by law and by rule, and unless they — and usually it wouldn’t be ‘they,’ it’d be the FBI — go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause, the same way it’s always been, the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause.”

The number of requests for wiretapping orders from the FISA court, Obama said, is “surprisingly small.”

Guardian: "Edward Snowden flatly denies Chinese spy claims"

"Extraditing Snowden back to the US would not only be a betrayal of Snowden's trust, but a disappointment for expectations around the world. The image of Hong Kong would be forever tarnished." -- HK newspaper op-ed

 Edward Snowden flatly denies Chinese spy claims
by Tania Branigan in Hong Kong
The Guardian
June 17, 2013 13.01 EDT
    A banner in Hong Kong supporting NSA operative Edward Snowden.
    A banner in Hong Kong supporting NSA operative Edward Snowden. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images
    NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has dismissed speculation that he might provide classified US information to other governments as a smear and distraction, saying he could be "petting a phoenix in Beijing by now" if he were a Chinese spy.

    The former US vice-president Dick Cheney and others had voiced suspicion about his decision to fly to Hong Kong, where he accused the US government of hacking targets there and on the Chinese mainland.

    In a live chat with Guardian readers Snowden wrote: "This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public, as the US media has a kneejerk RED CHINA!' reaction to anything involving HK or the PRC, and is intended to distract from the issue of US government misconduct.

    "Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now."

    Pressed again to state clearly whether he had given any information to Beijing, he said: "No. I have had no contact with the Chinese government … I only work with journalists."

    Earlier, China's foreign ministry said suggestions he might have acted for Beijing were completely groundless. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying, speaking at a regular press briefing on Monday, also urged the US to "pay attention to the international community's concerns and demands and give … the necessary explanation" of its surveillance activities.

    Her remarks were in response to questions from two state media organisations. She had previously declined to comment on the 29-year-old's case, or his claims that the US had hacked targets in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland.

    On Sunday, Cheney told Fox News that Snowden was a traitor and questioned his decision to travel to Hong Kong. "I'm suspicious because he went to China. That's not a place where you would ordinarily want to go if you are interested in freedom, liberty and so forth," he said, adding: "It raises questions whether or not he had that kind of connection before he did this."
    Cheney suggested that Snowden could still have confidential data and that the Chinese would "probably be willing to provide immunity for him or sanctuary for him in exchange for what he presumably knows or doesn't know".

    Others have suggested that if anything, Beijing could lean on the Hong Kong government to return him to the US for the sake of bilateral relations. Hong Kong is part of China but enjoys considerable autonomy under the "one country, two systems" framework.

    Snowden told the Guardian he chose to go there because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and he believed it was one of the few places that could resist the US government.

    But he also noted: "I think it is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom. Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People's Republic of China."

    He checked out of a hotel there to move to an unknown location last Monday, but told the South China Morning Post last week that he would stay and fight any request for his surrender in the territory's courts. "I'm neither traitor nor hero. I'm an American," he told the paper.

    Any surrender request would normally be the decision of the Hong Kong government, but Snowden would be able to challenge it through the territory's legal system, although lawyers think he would probably be unsuccessful in the end.

    In theory, Beijing could step in to stop him being sent back, but it would be unlikely to relish an all-out public row with the US.

    Earlier on Monday, the populist state-run Chinese tabloid The Global Times said that agreeing to surrender Snowden to the US "would be a face-losing outcome for both the Hong Kong SAR [special administrative region] government and the Chinese central government".
    It added: "Unlike a common criminal, Snowden did not hurt anybody. His crime is that he blew the whistle on the US government's violation of civil rights.

    "Extraditing Snowden back to the US would not only be a betrayal of Snowden's trust, but a disappointment for expectations around the world. The image of Hong Kong would be forever tarnished."

    The newspaper does not represent the official voice of the government and often runs provocative material such as hawkish commentaries from former military officers. But after years of criticism from the US over its human rights abuses and more recently hacking, Beijing appears to be enjoying its opportunity to turn the tables, with extensive coverage of Snowden's allegations on television and websites and in newspaper commentaries.

    According to the latest revelations from top secret documents uncovered by Snowden and seen by the Guardian, British intelligence agencies intercepted the communications of foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009.