TBR News August 11, 2013

Aug 11 2013

The Voice of the White House

          Washington, D.C. August 11, 2013: “With the growing illegal intrusions into the private lives of many millions of perfectly harmless citizens world-wide, the public is wondering if there is any protection against this. Here are a number of random comments, taken from my own inside knowledge of how the snoopers work and how they can be thwarted

            If you have a television set that is hooked up to a cable system, and the government has mandated that you must have a cable system, know that your television set can serve as a snooping device and will make any conversation held nearby audible to snoopers. How is this done?

            At some secret NSA or FBI location?

            No, the snoopers must go to your cable head, the offices where your cable system is housed, and then they can connect with your system. They can reverse the AM-FM system inside your TV set and listen in to anything you, or your family or friends say.

            They need no warrant for this and all the American cable companies are happy to accommodate the snoopers.

            How can you prevent this?

            Quite simply. Just disconnect the cable from the wall hook up and say what you, or your family or friends wish to say and then hook up the cable when you are finished. If you feel particularly malicious, say something like: “Here are the secret CIA plans, gentlemen and let me read certain parts to you….” And then disconnect the cable!

            This will drive the knuckle-dragging creeps mad.

And a friend of mine routinely types numbers out onto a page in a word document. He randomly types out hundreds of numbers, then breaks them up into five number groups. These he attaches to a document he posts, over the Internet, to some email address in a foreign country. Know that this will at once be intercepted by the NSA snoops. They will see what they believe to be some kind of a code and will try to run it through their computer system for reading. Since the numbers make no sense at all (because they are random in nature) the spies will rush about chattering like irate chipmunks in frustration.

Readers have been asking about such happy projects recently.

Another more serious defense is the new laser flashlight, made in France and now on the market, although privately. This looks just like a regular smallish flashlight but projects a laser beam that has an effect on the eyes. In sum, it destroys the optics so that the target is permanently blinded.

Under most state laws, a home owner (or renter) may use necessary force against a person invading their home, if they fear for their lives. Imagine if you are sitting in your living room with the lights out. Someone has called you a dozen times about a half an hour ago and you are too tired to answer. Then, sitting quietly in the darkness, you hear a scratching at your front door lock. This is the clicking noise a lock pick makes when a burglar is trying to break in. At this point, you stand to one side, pick up your laser flashlight and when some fat dude with a comb over and black jacket creeps inside, make a loud noise and shine the light directly onto his face.

His screams of pain will be heard three blocks away and you simply push him outside, call the local police and tell them some crazy person with a gun is running around in front of your house, threatening to shoot you. When the police come, he will be incoherent with pain and they will find a lock pick set in his pocket and, hopefully, a pistol under his jacket.

Eventually, his agency will get him out but from then on in, it will be white cane time for him.”

US reporter claims he has huge cache of Edward Snowden files

August 7, 2013

Agence France-Presse  

 

Brasilia: Brazil-based Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald said that he had received more than 15,000 secret US government documents from intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

 

Greenwald, an American who was among the first to release details of Washington’s vast electronic surveillance program, gave no details of the content of the files as he testified before the Brazilian Senate’s foreign relations committee.

 

“I did not do an exact count, but he gave me 15,000, 20,000 documents. Very, very complete and very long,” Greenwald said, responding to questions from lawmakers.

 

“The stories we have published are a small portion. There will certainly be more revelations on the espionage activities of the US government and allied governments (…) on how they have penetrated the communications systems of Brazil and Latin America,” he said.

 

Last month, US Vice President Joe Biden called Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to provide an explanation following press reports of US electronic surveillance in Brazil based on leaks from Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor.

 

Snowden is now a fugitive from US justice and is currently living at an unknown location in Russia after Moscow granted him temporary asylum for a year.

 

Obama’s Abuse of the Espionage Act is Modern-Day McCarthyism

 

August 6, 2013 

by John Kiriakou

The Guardian

 

Shame on this president for persecuting whistleblowers with a legal relic, while administration officials leak with impunity

 

            The conviction of Bradley Manning under the 1917 Espionage Act, and the US Justice Department’s decision to file espionage charges against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden under the same act, are yet further examples of the Obama administration’s policy of using an iron fist against human rights and civil liberties activists.

 

President Obama has been unprecedented in his use of the Espionage Act to prosecute those whose whistleblowing he wants to curtail. The purpose of an Espionage Act prosecution, however, is not to punish a person for spying for the enemy, selling secrets for personal gain, or trying to undermine our way of life. It is to ruin the whistleblower personally, professionally and financially. It is meant to send a message to anybody else considering speaking truth to power: challenge us and we will destroy you.

 

Only ten people in American history have been charged with espionage for leaking classified information, seven of them under Barack Obama. The effect of the charge on a person’s life – being viewed as a traitor, being shunned by family and friends, incurring massive legal bills – is all a part of the plan to force the whistleblower into personal ruin, to weaken him to the point where he will plead guilty to just about anything to make the case go away. I know. The three espionage charges against me made me one of “the Obama Seven”.

 

In early 2012, I was arrested and charged with three counts of espionage and one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA). (I was only the second person in US history to be charged with violating the IIPA, a law that was written to be used against rogues like Philip Agee.)

 

Two of my espionage charges were the result of a conversation I had with a New York Times reporter about torture. I gave him no classified information – only the business card of a former CIA colleague who had never been undercover. The other espionage charge was for giving the same unclassified business card to a reporter for ABC News. All three espionage charges were eventually dropped.

 

So, why charge me in the first place?

 

It was my punishment for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program and for confirming to the press, despite government protestations to the contrary, that the US government was, indeed, in the business of torture.

 

At the CIA, employees are trained to believe that nearly every moral issue is a shade of grey. But this is simply not true. Some issues are black-and-white – and torture is one of them. Many of us believed that the torture policy was solely a Bush-era perversion. But many of these perversions, or at least efforts to cover them up or justify them, have continued under President Obama.

 

Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, declared a war on whistleblowers virtually as soon as they assumed office. Some of the investigations began during the Bush administration, as was the case with NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, but Espionage Act cases have been prosecuted only under Obama. The president has chosen to ignore the legal definition of whistleblower – any person who brings to light evidence of waste, fraud, abuse or illegality – and has prosecuted truthtellers.

 

This policy decision smacks of modern-day McCarthyism. Washington has always needed an “ism” to fight against, an idea against which it could rally its citizens like lemmings. First, it was anarchism, then socialism, then communism. Now, it’s terrorism. Any whistleblower who goes public in the name of protecting human rights or civil liberties is accused of helping the terrorists.

 

That the whistleblower has the support of groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, or the American Civil Liberties Union matters not a whit. The administration simply presses forward with wild accusations against the whistleblower: “He’s aiding the enemy!” “He put our soldiers lives in danger!” “He has blood on his hands!” Then, when it comes time for trial, the espionage charges invariably are either dropped or thrown out.

 

The administration and its national security sycophants in both parties in Congress argue that governmental actions exposed by the whistleblower are legal. The Justice Department approved the torture, after all, and the US supreme court said that the NSA’s eavesdropping program was constitutional. But this is the same Justice Department that harassed, surveilled, wiretapped and threatened Martin Luther King Jr, and that recently allowed weapons to be sold to Mexican drug gangs in the Fast and Furious scandal. Just because they’re in power doesn’t mean they’re right.

 

Yet another problem with the Espionage Act is that it has never been applied uniformly. Immediately after its passage in 1917, American socialist leader Eugene V Debs was arrested and imprisoned under the Espionage Act – simply for criticizing the US decision to enter the first world war. He ran for president from his prison cell.

 

Nearly a century later, when the deputy director for national intelligence revealed the amount of the highly-classified intelligence budget in an ill-conceived speech, she was not even sent a letter of reprimand – despite the fact the Russians, Chinese, and others had sought the figure for decades. When former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta boastfully revealed the identity of the Seal Team member who killed Osama bin Laden in a speech to an audience that included uncleared individuals, the Pentagon and the CIA simply called the disclosure “inadvertent”.

 

There was no espionage charge for Panetta. But there was a $3m book deal.

 

The Obama administration’s espionage prosecutions are political actions for political reasons, and are carried out by political appointees. The only way to end this or any administration’s abuse of the Espionage Act is to rewrite the law. It is so antiquated that it doesn’t even mention classified information; the classification system hadn’t yet been invented. The law was written a century ago to prosecute German saboteurs. Its only update came in 1950, at the height of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case. The law is still so broad and vague that many legal scholars argue that it is unconstitutional.

 

The only hope of ending this travesty of justice is to scrap the Espionage Act and to enact new legislation that would protect whistleblowers while allowing the government to prosecute traitors and spies. This would require congressional leadership, however, and that is something that is very difficult to come by. Giants like the late Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Frank Church, and the late Representative Otis Pike, who boldly took on and reformed the intelligence community in the 1970s, are long-gone. Until someone on Capitol Hill begins to understand the concept of justice for national security whistleblowers, very little is likely to change.

 

The press also has a role to play, one that, so far, it has largely ignored. That role is to report on and investigate the whistleblower’s revelations of illegality, not on the kind of car he drives, the brand of eyeglasses he wears, where he went to college, or what his nextdoor neighbor has to say about their childhood.

 

The attacks on our civil liberties that the whistleblower reports are far too important to move off-message into trivialities. After all, the government is spying on all of us. That should be the story.

 

 

Death Before NSA Dishonor: Encrypted Services Stage Suicide Revolt

 

Popular sites Lavabit and Silent Circle would rather close down than betray customer privacy in face of government requests they deem ‘unconstitutional’

 

August 9, 2013

by Jon Queally, staff writer

Common Dreams

 

 

The encrypted email service provider Silent Circle has followed its competitor Lavabit who on Thursday announced it would shutter its services rather than be compelled by the US government to hand over the private data and emails from its customers, one of whom is believed to be NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

 

Supporters of internet freedom and privacy protections were shocked at the news, but also expressing gratitude for what they see as a service provider choosing the protections of it own customers over the threat of lost profits or requests by the government that they deemed inappropriate and unconstitutional.

 

As Reuters reports:

 

[Lavabit’s founder said] he has decided to “suspend operations” but was barred from discussing the events over the past six weeks that led to his decision.

 

That matches the period since Snowden went public as the source of media reports detailing secret electronic spying operations by the U.S. National Security Agency.

 

“Given the impressive powers of the government to obtain emails and records from service providers, both with and without legal authority, it is encouraging to see service providers take steps to limit their ability to access user data,” said the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Kurt Opsahl in a web posting.

 

Thursday afternoon, it was Lavabit founder and director Lavar Levinson, who release this statement exlpaining why the service would be shut down:

 

My Fellow Users,

 

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

 

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

 

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

 

Sincerely,

Ladar Levison

Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

 

“It’s rare to see an email provider choose to go out of business rather than compromise its values,” said Opsahl. “It must have been a hard decision for Ladar Levison, but he remained true to his promise to put privacy before profits. It was also hard on the users, some of whom lost access to email not available elsewhere.”

 

As the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman reports, “[Edward] Snowden was allegedly a Lavabit customer. A Lavabit email address believed to come from Snowden invited reporters to a press conference at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in mid-July.”

 

And his Guardian colleague Glenn Greenwald writes:

 

What is particularly creepy about the Lavabit self-shutdown is that the company is gagged by law even from discussing the legal challenges it has mounted and the court proceeding it has engaged. In other words, the American owner of the company believes his Constitutional rights and those of his customers are being violated by the US Government, but he is not allowed to talk about it.

 

Levison’s decision for Lavabit was quickly followed by their competitor Silent Circle, which followed on Friday with this note to their customers:

 

We designed our phone, video, and text services (Silent Phone and Silent Text) to be completely end-to-end secure with all cryptography done on the clients and our exposure to your data to be nil. The reasons are obvious — the less of your information we have, the better it is for you and for us.

 

Silent Mail has thus always been something of a quandary for us. Email that uses standard Internet protocols cannot have the same security guarantees that real-time communications has. There are far too many leaks of information and metadata intrinsically in the email protocols themselves. Email as we know it with SMTP, POP3, and IMAP cannot be secure.

 

And yet, many people wanted it. Silent Mail has similar security guarantees to other secure email systems, and with full disclosure, we thought it would be valuable.

 

However, we have reconsidered this position. We’ve been thinking about this for some time, whether it was a good idea at all. Today, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system lest they “be complicit in crimes against the American people.” We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.

 

We’ve been debating this for weeks, and had changes planned starting next Monday. We’d considered phasing the service out, continuing service for existing customers, and a variety of other things up until today. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and with your safety we decided that the worst decision is always no decision.

 

Silent Phone and Silent Text, along with their cousin Silent Eyes are end-to-end secure. We don’t have the encrypted data and we don’t collect metadata about your conversations. They’re continuing as they have been. We are still working on innovative ways to do truly secure communications. Silent Mail was a good idea at the time, and that time is past.

 

We apologize for any inconvenience, and hope you understand that if we dithered, it could be more inconvenient.

 

Tech blogger and expert David Meyer expressed a widely held response to the news by suggesting the the US government’s surveillance program will have a chilling impact on the digital economy in the US, with customers concerned about privay realizing that the demands for customer date by US agencies cannot be adequately resisted.

 

“The closures strongly suggest that secure hosted email services cannot be sited in the U.S. without being compelled to compromise users’ privacy if asked to do so by the authorities there,” Meyer writes at Gigaom.

 

And John Constine at TechCrunch writes:

 

The move has bolstered critics who are becoming increasingly vocal about how the U.S. government’s surveillance efforts are jeopardizing American technology businesses. They fear international customers may take their cloud business elsewhere in an attempt to avoid the NSA. Jennifer Granick, the Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, wrote that ”the U.S. government, in its rush to spy on everybody, may end up killing our most productive industry. Lavabit may just be the canary in the coal mine.”

 

Now it seems that the negative impact won’t just be in the form of lost customers or businesses shut down upon receiving data demands. The destruction could reach as far as companies unwilling to even risk compromising their values. At this point, the nation’s best hope for reform of spying practices might be making a case that it hurts the economy.

 

Obama touts NSA surveillance reforms to quell growing unease over programs

 

President to work with Congress to reform NSA’s Fisa court and Patriot Act but made clear that mass surveillance would continue

 

August 9, 2013

by Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman in Washington

The Guardian  

 

Barack Obama announced the first public review of US surveillance programs since 9/11 on Friday, in what amounts to the president’s first concession that the mounting public concern in response to disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden justifies reform.

 

After weeks in which the Obama and senior intelligence officials have insisted that the privacy of US citizens was sufficiently protected, the president announced a series of measures aimed at containing the controversy prompted by the Guardian’s revelations.

 

At a White House press conference – his first full question-and-answer session in three months – Obama said that revelations about the National Security Agency’s activities had led Americans to question their trust in government and damaged the country’s reputation abroad. But he made it clear that the programs themselves would remain in place.

 

Announcing that a panel of independent figures would “review our entire intelligence and communications technologies”, reporting before the end of the year, Obama said: “We need new thinking for a new era.”

 

In an apparent reference to the series of disclosures by the Guardian over the last two months, the president said the “drip by drip” cascade of stories based on documents provided by Snowden had “changed the environment” and impacted public perceptions.

 

“It is not enough for me as president to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well,” he said.

 

Obama began his press conference by announcing what he described as “four specific steps” designed to reassure the public and improve the US’s reputation abroad. The proposals included a commitment to work with Congress to “pursue appropriate reforms” to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which has been used to authorise the bulk collection of millions of US phone records.

 

He said he would work with legislators to revamp the secretive foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court, which grants the NSA legal authorization for its mass collection, to make it more adverserial. Obama conceded the court worked on the basis of biased proceedings which “only hear one side of the story” and “may tilt it too far in favour of security, may not pay enough attention to liberty”.

 

Obama’s suggestion that “privacy advocates” would be introduced to some Fisa court proceedings was not unexpected. Three senators, Richard Blumenthal, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, last week introduced a bill to create such an advocate – a proposal that appears to have wide support.

 

Nothing Obama announced is likely to materially alter the NSA’s ongoing mass collection of phone data and surveillance of internet communications in the short term. Neither did the president exhibit much appetite for significantly altering the surveillance capabilities of the US intelligence community, saying at one point the aim might be to “jigger slightly” the balance between the intelligence and “the incremental encroachment on privacy”.

 

But the announcement, made shortly before the president departed for his vacation, represents a significant climbdown for the White House, which for two months has maintained that it has struck the right balance between privacy and security.

 

Democratic senator Ron Wyden, a leading critic of the NSA’s bulk surveillance powers in the Senate, welcomed Obama’s proposals, but called for greater detail. “Notably absent from President Obama’s speech was any mention of closing the backdoor searches loophole that potentially allows for the warrantless searches of Americans’ phone calls and emails under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Wyden said.

 

The senator was referring to a disclosure in the Guardian based on a top-secret document which indicates the NSA has a secret backdoor into its databases under a legal authority enabling it to search for US citizens’ email and phone calls without a warrant.

 

The document, published on Friday three hours before Obama’s announcement, contrasts with assurances that president and senior intelligence officials have previously given that the privacy of US citizens is protected from dragnet surveillance programs targeted at foreigners. “I believe that this provision requires significant reforms as well and I will continue to fight to close that loophole,” Wyden said.

 

Obama acknowledged that Snowden’s disclosures had triggered a public debate, but insisted the whistleblower was “not a patriot” and claimed that the reforms might have been implemented if the leaks had not happened. “There is no doubt that Mr Snowden’s leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board, if I had sat down with Congress [and] worked this thing through,” he said.

 

Throughout his press conference, Obama said there was no evidence that the intelligence agencies had “abused” their powers, insisting he was instead addressing a problem of public perceptions.

 

“If you are outside of the intelligence community, if you are the ordinary person, and you start to see a bunch of headlines saying ‘US, Big Brother, looking down on you, collecting telephone records, etc’, well, understandably people would be concerned,” he said. “I would be too, if I wasn’t inside the government.”

 

Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, took issue with the president’s stance. “The intelligence agencies say you can’t point to instances of abused authority,” he said. “The fact that the government is collecting all this information is itself a form of abuse. But even if you take their narrow definition of abuse, we don’t have the information to evaluate that. It’s all secret.”

 

The chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, who has defended the NSA, said the review announced by the president would be the “primary order of business” for the committee after the summer.

 

Like Obama, she framed the review as a measure that would address public sensibilities rather than in any way rein back NSA surveillance. “To the extent possible, I hope these hearings will better delineate the purpose and scope of these programs and increase the public’s confidence in their effectiveness,” she said.

 

In his remarks, Obama said the White House was having to respond to a “changed environment” where disclosures being released “drip by drip, you know, one a week, to kind of maximise attention, and see if they can catch us on some imprecision on something”.

 

He said: “In light of that, it makes sense to go ahead, lay out what exactly we are doing, have a discussion with Congress, have a discussion with industry, which is also impacted by this, have a discussion with civil libertarians, and see if we can do this better.”

 

 

Snowden revelations force Obama’s hand on surveillance program

 

August 9, 2013

by Chuck Todd, Kelly O’Donnell and Carrie Dann

NBC News

 

NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s revelations have forced President Barack Obama’s hand, leading the president to announce new reforms of the government’s classified surveillance programs.

 

After his administration issued repeated defenses of a National Security Agency monitoring program that collects Americans’ phone and Internet data, Obama announced during a press conference Friday afternoon that reforms to the system will make the collection activities more transparent and “give the American people additional confidence that there are additional safeguards against abuse.”

 

Obama said the changes will include changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court system — which currently greenlights requests for data gathering —  as well as the creation of both an internal NSA position devoted to privacy and an external working group to evaluate transparency in the program.  Officials will also launch a new website next week that will serve as “a hub for further transparency” for interested members of the public.

 

“Given the history of abuse by governments, it’s right to ask questions about surveillance by governments, particularly as technology is reshaping every aspects of our lives,” he said.

 

Obama’s announcement comes even as Snowden — the defense-contractor-turned-fugitive who released information to reporters about the NSA’s monitoring programs — has been charged with theft of government property and two offenses under U.S. espionage law.

 

 

He continues to evade extradition to the United States under a temporary asylum granted by the Russian government  – an agreement that prompted Obama to cancel a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in protest.

 

             Snowden has generated strong feelings in the wake of disclosures, with many lawmakers decrying him as treasonous for releasing the information while others have used the case to press their concerns about how the government is watching American citizens.

 

Obama bluntly rejected the idea Friday that Snowden’s actions were patriotic.

 

“No, I don’t think Mr. Snowden is a patriot,” he said, adding that he would have preferred a “lawful, orderly” debate over privacy concerns rather than finger-pointing in the wake of the leaks.

 

But while the president has declined in the past to say whether he considers Snowden a “whistleblower” as supporters of the alleged leaker claim, Snowden’s actions were at the very least a catalyst for the coming reforms, which he says will establish additional layers of oversight to reign in possible abuses of the NSA practices.

 

Obama defended the existing program as recently as Tuesday, stating flatly during an interview with comedian Jay Leno that “we don’t have a domestic spying program.”

 

“But,” he added, “what I’ve said before I want to make sure I repeat, and that is we should be skeptical about the potential encroachments on privacy.  None of the revelations show that government has actually abused these powers, but they’re pretty significant powers.”

 

Obama said Friday that he remains confident that the NSA is not abusing the information it collects but argued that the reforms will help assure the American people that their privacy will not be violated.

 

“The fact that I said that the programs are operating in a way that prevents abuse — that continues to be true without the reforms,” he said. “The question is ‘how do I make the American people more comfortable?'”

 

And, at the moment, polling shows that’s not the case.

 

A NBC/WSJ poll last month showed that 56 percent of Americans say they’re worried the United States will go too far in violating privacy rights. That’s a dramatic shift from the national environment after the 9/11 terror attacks, when 55 percent of Americans said they worried that the United States would not go far enough in monitoring potential terrorists who live in the United States.

 

That poll also showed that only 11 percent of Americans said they viewed Edward Snowden positively, versus 35 percent who said they viewed him negatively.

 

On Tuesday, Obama declined to comment at length on Snowden’s status, saying it’s important not to “prejudge” the case. But the president said that existing whistleblower protections could have offered Snowden an avenue to report what he believed were inappropriate uses of Americans’ data without jeopardizing national security.

 

He repeated that sentiment Friday, saying that Snowden is welcome to a fair trial in the United States if he believes his actions were justified.

 

Advertise | AdChoices”If in fact he believes that what he did was right, then like very American citizen, he can come here before the court with a lawyer and make his case,” Obama said.

 

But regardless of how Obama, the public or the law view the 30 year old former contractor, Snowden continues to be problematic for the State Department and the rest of the Obama administration.

 

His asylum in Russia demonstrated the fraying relationship between the United States and Putin’s government, and it remains unclear whether he will release more information that intelligence officials would consider a setback to anti-terrorism efforts.

 

This story was originally published on Fri

 

 

I Only Regret That I Have But One Life to Give for My Country: Yours: The Crime of the Century

 

by Tom Engelhardt

 

Hey, let’s talk spying!  In Surveillance America, this land of spookery we all now inhabit, what else is there to talk about?

 

Was there anyone growing up like me in the 1950s who didn’t know Revolutionary War hero and spy Nathan Hale’s last words before the British hanged him: “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country”?  I doubt it.  Even today that line, whether historically accurate or not, gives me a chill.  Of course, it’s harder these days to imagine a use for such a heroically solitary statement — not in an America in which spying and surveillance are boom businesses, and our latest potential Nathan Hales are tens of thousands of corporately hired and trained private intelligence contractors, who often don’t get closer to the enemy than a computer terminal.

 

What would Nathan Hale think if you could tell him that the CIA, the preeminent spy agency in the country, has an estimated 20,000 employees (it won’t reveal the exact number, of course); or that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which monitors the nation’s spy satellites, has a cast of 16,000 housed in a post-9/11, almost $2 billion headquarters in Washington’s suburbs; or that our modern Nathan Hales, multiplying like so many jackrabbits, lack the equivalent of a Britain to spy on.  In the old-fashioned sense, there really is no longer an enemy on the planet.  The modern analog to the British of 1776 would assumedly be… al-Qaeda?

 

It’s true that powers friendly and less friendly still spy on the U.S.  Who doesn’t remember that ring of suburban-couples-cum-spies the Russians planted here?  It was a sophisticated operation that only lacked access to state secrets of any sort and that the FBI rolled up in 2010.  But generally speaking, in a single-superpower world, the U.S., with no obvious enemy, has been building its own system of global spying and surveillance on a scale never before seen in an effort to keep track of just about everyone on the planet (as recently released NSA documents show).  In other words, Washington is now spy central.  It surveils not just potential future enemies, but also its closest allies as if they were enemies.  Increasingly, the structure built to do a significant part of that spying is aimed at Americans, too, and on a scale that is no less breathtaking.

 

Spies, Traitors, and Defectors in Twenty-First-Century America

 

Today, for America’s spies, Nathan Hale’s job comes with health and retirement benefits.  Top officials in that world have access to a revolving door into guaranteed lucrative employment at the highest levels of the corporate-surveillance complex and, of course, for the spy in need of escape, a golden parachute.  So when I think about Nathan Hale’s famed line, among those hundreds of thousands of American spies and corporate spylings just two Americans come to mind, both charged and one convicted under the draconian World War I Espionage Act.

 

Only one tiny subset of Americans might still be able to cite Hale’s words and have them mean anything.  Even when Army Private First Class Bradley Manning wrote the former hacker who would turn him in about the possibility that he might find himself in jail for life or be executed, he didn’t use those words.  But if he had, they would have been appropriate.  Former Booz Allen employee Edward Snowden didn’t use them in Hong Kong when he discussed the harsh treatment he assumed he would get from his government for revealing the secrets of the National Security Agency, but had he, those words wouldn’t have sounded out of whack.

 

The recent conviction of Manning on six charges under the Espionage Act for releasing secret military and government documents should be a reminder that we Americans are in a rapidly transforming world.  It is, however, a world that’s increasingly hard to capture accurately because the changes are outpacing the language we have to describe them and so our ability to grasp what is happening.

 

Take the words “spying” and “espionage.”  At a national level, you were once a spy who engaged in espionage when, by whatever subterfuge, you gathered the secrets of an enemy, ordinarily an enemy state, for the use of your own country.  In recent years, however, those being charged under the Espionage Act by the Bush and Obama administrations have not in any traditional sense been spies.  None were hired or trained by another power or entity to mine secrets.  All had, in fact, been trained either by the U.S. government or an allied corporate entity.  All, in their urge to reveal, were freelancers (a.k.a. whistleblowers) who might, in the American past, have gone under the label of “patriots.”

 

None was planning to turn the information in their possession over to an enemy power.  Each was trying to make his or her organization, department, or agency conform to proper or better practices or, in the cases of Manning and Snowden, bring to the attention of the American people the missteps and misdeeds of our own government about which we were ignorant thanks to the cloak of secrecy thrown over ever more of its acts and documents.

 

To the extent that those whistleblowers were committing acts of espionage, surreptitiously taking secret information from the innards of the national security state for delivery to an “enemy power,” that power was “we, the people,” the governing power as imagined in the U.S. Constitution.  Manning and Snowden each believed that the release of classified documents in his possession would empower us, the people, and lead us to question what was being done by the national security state in our name but without our knowledge.  In other words, if they were spies, then they were spying on the government for us.

 

They were, that is, insiders embedded in a vast, increasingly secretive structure that, in the name of protecting us from terrorism, was betraying us in a far deeper way.  Both men have been termed “traitors” (Manning in military court), while Congressman Peter King called Snowden a “defector,” a Cold War term no longer much in use in a one-superpower world.  Such words, too, would need new definitions to fit our present reality.

 

In a sense, Manning and Snowden could be said to have “defected” — from the U.S. secret government to us.  However informally or individually, they could nonetheless be imagined as the people’s spies.  What their cases indicate is that, in this country, the lock-‘em-up-and-throw-away-the-key crime of the century is now to spy on the U.S. for us.  That can leave you abused and mistreated in a U.S. military prison, or trapped in a Moscow airport, or with your career or life in ruins.

 

In terms of the national security state, “spying” now has two preeminent meanings.  It means spying on the world and spying on Americans, both on a massive scale.  In the process, that burgeoning structure has become Washington’s most precious secret, ostensibly from our enemies, but actually from us and, as we’ve learned recently, even from our elected representatives.  The goal of that state, it seems, is to turn the American people into so much absorbable, controllable intelligence data, our identities sliced, diced, and passed around the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the surveillance world, our bytes stored up to be “mined” at their convenience.

 

Government of the Surveillers, by the Surveillers, for the Surveillers

 

            If Edward Snowden’s documents reveal anything, it’s that the frenzy of construction — from new headquarters to new data centers — that has been the mark of the intelligence world since 9/11 has been matched by a similar frenzy of construction in the world of online and telephonic communications.  We undoubtedly don’t know the full scope of it yet, but it’s already obvious that from PRISM to XKeyscore the U.S. Intelligence Community has been creating a labyrinth of redundant surveillance mechanisms that mimics the vast growth and redundancy of the intelligence world itself, of the 17 organizations and agencies in that “community” and all the little outfits or offices not even counted in that staggering figure.

 

The truth is that, thanks to our “spies,” we know a great deal more about how our American world, our government, really works, but we still don’t know what this thing that’s being built really is.  Even its creators may be at sea when it comes to what exactly they are in the process of constructing.  They want us to trust them, but we the people shouldn’t put our trust in the generals, high-level bureaucrats, and spooks who don’t even blink when they lie to our representatives, pay no price for doing so, and are creating a world that is, and is meant to be, beyond our control.  We lack words for what is happening to us.  We still have to name it.

 

It is at least clearer that our world, our society, is becoming ever more imperial in nature, reflecting in part the way our post-9/11 wars have come home.  With its widening economic inequalities, the United States is increasingly a society of the rulers and the ruled, the surveillers and the surveilled.  Those surveillers have hundreds of thousands of spies to keep track of us and others on this planet, and no matter what they do, no matter what lines they cross, no matter how egregious their acts may be, they are never punished for them, not even losing their jobs.  We, on the other hand, have a tiny number of volunteer surveillers on our side.  The minute they make themselves known or are tracked down by the national security state, they automatically lose their jobs and that’s only the beginning of the punishments levied on them.

 

Those who run our new surveillance state have not the slightest hesitation about sacrificing us on the altar of their plans — all for the greater good, as they define it.

 

This, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with any imaginable definition of democracy or the long-gone republic.  This is part of the new way of life of imperial America in which a government of the surveillers, by the surveillers, for the surveillers shall not perish from the Earth.

 

Those who watch us — they would undoubtedly say “watch over,” as in protect — are no Nathan Hales.  Their version of his line might be: I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country: yours. 

 

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture (just published in a Kindle edition), runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

 

[Note on Nathan Hale: Back in the 1950s, we learned his famous line as “I only regret that I have one life to give for my country.”  It is more likely, however, that he said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  Or, of course, he may not have uttered either of those sentences.  We don’t know.]

 

 

China and India ‘water grab’ dams put ecology of Himalayas in danger

 

More than 400 hydroelectric schemes are planned in the mountain region, which could be a disaster for the environment

 

August 10,  2013

by John Vidal

The Observer 

 

The future of the world’s most famous mountain range could be endangered by a vast dam-building project, as a risky regional race for water resources takes place in Asia.

 

New academic research shows that India, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan are engaged in a huge “water grab” in the Himalayas, as they seek new sources of electricity to power their economies. Taken together, the countries have plans for more than 400 hydro dams which, if built, could together provide more than 160,000MW of electricity – three times more than the UK uses.

 

In addition, China has plans for around 100 dams to generate a similar amount of power from major rivers rising in Tibet. A further 60 or more dams are being planned for the Mekong river which also rises in Tibet and flows south through south-east Asia.

 

Most of the Himalayan rivers have been relatively untouched by dams near their sources. Now the two great Asian powers, India and China, are rushing to harness them as they cut through some of the world’s deepest valleys. Many of the proposed dams would be among the tallest in the world, able to generate more than 4,000MW, as much as the Hoover dam on the Colorado river in the US.

 

The result, over the next 20 years, “could be that the Himalayas become the most dammed region in the world”, said Ed Grumbine, visiting international scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Kunming. “India aims to construct 292 dams … doubling current hydropower capacity and contributing 6% to projected national energy needs. If all dams are constructed as proposed, in 28 of 32 major river valleys, the Indian Himalayas would have one of the highest average dam densities in the world, with one dam for every 32km of river channel. Every neighbour of India with undeveloped hydropower sites is building or planning to build multiple dams, totalling at minimum 129 projects,” said Grumbine, author of a paper in Science.

 

China, which is building multiple dams on all the major rivers running off the Tibetan plateau, is likely to emerge as the ultimate controller of water for nearly 40% of the world’s population. “The plateau is the source of the single largest collection of international rivers in the world, including the Mekong, the Brahmaputra, the Yangtse and the Yellow rivers. It is the headwater of rivers on which nearly half the world depends. The net effect of the dam building could be disastrous. We just don’t know the consequences,” said Tashi Tseri, a water resource researcher at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

 

“China is engaged in the greatest water grab in history. Not only is it damming the rivers on the plateau, it is financing and building mega-dams in Pakistan, Laos, Burma and elsewhere and making agreements to take the power,” said Indian geopolitical analyst Brahma Chellaney. “China-India disputes have shifted from land to water. Water is the new divide and is going centre stage in politics. Only China has the capacity to build these mega-dams and the power to crush resistance. This is effectively war without a shot being fired.”

 

According to Chellaney, India is in the weakest position because half its water comes directly from China; however, Bangladesh is fearful of India’s plans for water diversions and hydropower. Bangladeshi government scientists say that even a 10% reduction in the water flow by India could dry out great areas of farmland for much of the year. More than 80% of Bangladesh’s 50 million small farmers depend on water that flows through India.

 

Engineers and environmentalists say that little work has been done on the human or ecological impact of the dams, which they fear could increase floods and be vulnerable to earthquakes. “We do not have credible environmental and social impact assessments, we have no environmental compliance system, no cumulative impact assessment and no carrying capacity studies. The Indian ministry of environment and forests, developers and consultants are responsible for this mess,” said Himanshu Thakkar, co-ordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

 

China and India have both displaced tens of millions of people with giant dams such as the Narmada and Three Gorges over the last 30 years, but governments have not published estimates of how many people would have to be relocated or how much land would be drowned by the new dams. “This is being totally ignored. No one knows, either, about the impact of climate change on the rivers. The dams are all being built in rivers that are fed by glaciers and snowfields which are melting at a fast rate,” said Tsering.

 

Climate models suggest that major rivers running off the Himalayas, after increasing flows as glaciers melt, could lose 10-20% of their flow by 2050. This would not only reduce the rivers’ capacity to produce electricity, but would exacerbate regional political tensions.

 

The dams have already led to protest movements in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam and other northern states of India and in Tibet. Protests in Uttarakhand, which was devastated by floods last month, were led by Indian professor GD Agarwal, who was taken to hospital after a 50-day fast but who was released this week.

 

“There is no other way but to continue because the state government is not keen to review the dam policy,” said Mallika Bhanot, a member of Ganga Avahan, a group opposing proposals for a series of dams on the Ganges.

 

Governments have tried to calm people by saying that many of the dams will not require large reservoirs, but will be “run of the river” constructions which channel water through tunnels to massive turbines. But critics say the damage done can be just as great. “[These] will complete shift the path of the river flow,” said Shripad Dharmadhikary, a leading opponent of the Narmada dams and author of a report into Himalayan dams. “Everyone will be affected because the rivers will dry up between points. The whole hydrology of the rivers will be changed. It is likely to aggravate floods.

 

“A dam may only need 500 people to move because of submergence, but because the dams stop the river flow it could impact on 20,000 people. They also disrupt the groundwater flows so many people will end up with water running dry. There will be devastation of livelihoods along all the rivers.”

 

The G.O.P.s Surveillance Judiciary: Is it possible to simply disband the partisan FISA court?

 

July 29, 2013

by Scott Horton

Harpers

 

            In Friday’s New York Times, Charlie Savage takes a closer look at the judges hand-picked by John Roberts for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court.

 

Ten of the court’s 11 judges — all assigned by Chief Justice Roberts — were appointed to the bench by Republican presidents; six once worked for the federal government. Since the chief justice began making assignments in 2005, 86 percent of his choices have been Republican appointees, and 50 percent have been former executive branch officials.

 

Not surprisingly, the Times review shows that Roberts has fashioned a court in his own image: movement conservative, Republican, largely consisting of persons who previously worked in the government. In sum, Roberts has picked a court that can be relied upon to quickly approve any government request for surveillance, through whatever instruments and according to whatever rules the government wishes.

 

The two chief justices who preceded Roberts, William H. Rehnquist and Warren E. Burger, were also conservative Republicans, and like Roberts they also ensured that a majority of the FISA court’s judges were conservative Republicans. However, neither of his predecessors was nearly so obsessive about it as Roberts — two-thirds of their selections were Republicans, while for Roberts, all but one have been Republican.

 

Equally consequential, to my mind, are the legal backgrounds of the judges selected. As Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal, a career prosecutor, has explained, “Judges who used to be executive-branch lawyers were more likely to share a ‘get the bad guys’ mindset and defer to the Justice Department if executive-branch officials told them that new surveillance powers were justified.”

 

The division forming over National Security Agency surveillance is hardly a conventional partisan split. Those who hold or are in the thrall of executive power — the Obama Administration, the Democratic and the G.O.P. congressional leadership — want to safeguard its secrets from the American public. Their interest was laid bare in curious fashion near the end of a recent House hearing on the NSA scandal. Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte asked the government’s most senior intelligence lawyer, Robert S. Litt, whether he really believed the government could keep such a vast surveillance program a secret forever. “Well,” Litt replied, “we tried.”

 

Standing in opposition to the NSA’s surveillance overreach is an ad-hoc coalition of civil-liberties Democrats and libertarian Republicans. An amendment they introduced in the House to this end failed last week by a vote of 217 to 205, after last-minute arm-twisting from G.O.P. congressional leaders and senior Obama officials secured the tiny margin of victory. The winning votes may have come from representatives who are opposed to the breadth of the NSA programs but believe the agency should have time to wind them down. Leaders in both camps expect the NSA’s surveillance frolic-and-detour to be curtailed when its current authorization period expires, a point on which senior Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (Ill.), an author of the Patriot Act provisions used to justify the surveillance, has lately been emphatic.

 

The special judicial body put in place by FISA to check government surveillance activities has been transformed by John Roberts into a cheerleader for such programs. This judicial adulteration leaves NSA critics in Congress with little alternative but to push for laws establishing further limits on NSA activities — though even if they manage to pass such a law, they must be wary of the demonstrated ability of the Justice Department, the NSA, and the FISA court to find secret “understandings” of statutes that justify unforeseen forms of overreach.

 

The Roberts Court, as we might as well call the FISA body, has stumbled in upholding the ongoing expansion of government surveillance, and is justifiably drawing fire from Congress and the public over its demonstrated failures of judicial detachment and objectivity. But is it possible to simply disband the court? In the end, there is no getting around the need for a judicial check in the surveillance process. It would make far more sense to let the terms of the current judges lapse at the end of this year and require that new members be appointed, with those now serving precluded from another term. And the process by which new members are appointed must ensure that the new court is representative of the federal judiciary as a whole. That might be achieved by any of a number of proposals pending in Congress, but it surely won’t occur if John Roberts is allowed to continue to appoint the FISA court’s members.

 

 

China’s Mass Counterfeiting of American coins

August 10, 2013

by Brian Harring

 

 

             With the collapsing American economy, many Americans are rushing to invest in gold; either coins or bar, and also silver. One of the most popular forms of this investment are American coins.  Where there is a need, there is always someone to fill it and in this case, the filling consists of  the massive counterfeiting of gold coins, silver coins, and even Swiss gold bars in China. Initially, it appeared they were only faking Morgan dollars, but then it turned out they were also making $20 Liberty, and Indian Head gold $2.50, $5, and $10 coins, of all dates. Evidently, this is extremely easy with today’s computer-and-laser-die-cutting technology, and the fakes are being die-struck in vast quantities, not cast, and visually at least, are superb copies.

 

            The good news is that these fakes are readily detectable with a 0.01 – gram scale, as the Chinese in their greed are using lower carats of gold and lower grades of silver than the genuine coins, to maximize profit, and thus, in most cases, the fake coins and bars are lighter than the real ones. In a few cases, the silver coins of high numismatic interest are actually OVER weight – it appears that the supply of accurate planchet stock is a major difficulty for the forgers.

 

            Here are links to a two-part article about this in Coin World Magazine:

 

             http://www.coinworldonline.com/counterfeits/articles/20081203/counterfeit_1.asp

 

             http://www.coinworldonline.com/counterfeits/articles/20081203/counterfeit_2.asp

 

            Note: They are even faking PCGS and ANACS slabs!!:

 

             http://www.coinworldonline.com/counterfeits/articles/20081203/counterfeit_3.asp

 

            A friend who has an extremely wealthy friend in Europe (on the order of several hundreds of millions) asked this person to make enquiries at his bank. The bank told him candidly that indeed, the Chinese are also faking sovereigns, half sovereigns, French 20 Franc gold, and various denominations of Nicholas II Russian Rubles, of all dates, as well as Swiss gold bars. They said any gold bars they are offered for purchase are both weighed and the serial numbers checked with the manufacturers. The Chinese do not know the serial and manufacture date numbering systems on the gold bars, and so that error is quickly detectable.

 

            The US Secret Service has just this week been made aware of this problem, which was new to them, and if they decide to launch an investigation, they have indicated that while they cannot do anything about the operations in China, they can, and will, seize any counterfeit US coins they come across. Dealers in these fakes would also be liable to fines and jail time. Foreign fakes are not under their purview, but if that business turns out to be substantial, there could conceivably be an FBI investigation of fraud in interstate commerce, targeting companies who are mail-ordering fake foreign coins. Individuals who have been cheated might also sue their suppliers – in short, this could turn into a huge mess.

 

            General appearance aside, it is very easy it is to spot fakes – just with a scale reading to 1/00th of a gram, and a table of the correct weights and sizes of the coins or bars they are buying. (In the case of large-size bargold, unless buying from the manufacturer or a reputable bank, the serial numbers need to be verified, so that one does not buy a Chinese bar with a lead or mercury core)

 

             Herewith a listing of what I have uncovered so far:

 

            1; The U.S .Morgan silver dollar. All dates and all mint marks;

            2: The U.S. gold coins viz the $2.50, $5.00 and $10.00 Indian head issues

            3. The U.S. copper penny viz 1909 S  vdb

            4. Three gold Imperial Russian roubles from the reign of Nicholas II

            5. A gold 20 franc coin with the head of Napoleon I on the obverse

            6. The South African Krugerrand

            7. British sovereigns and half sovereigns of different monarchs and dates

 

            And in addition, they are also making fake gold bars from the Credit Suisse people.

 

            It was always considered that numismatics as a relatively fraud-free area of collecting, but it appears that a coin collector today has to carry a digital scale around. This doesn’t affect me very much, but I too have wondered at the sudden appearance of all the Morgan dollars. Fortunately, the ones I have came down to me from my grandfather, and I’ll be very careful picking up individual pieces that fill blanks.

 

            As for Krugerands and similar gold pieces that are traded for bullion prices, it is obvious that the Chinese have lowered the purity and thus debase the value; otherwise, a fake Krug would have as much gold as a real one.

 

MORGAN SILVER DOLLARS (1878-1921)

            Note: It is very important to understand that most of these coins were removed from circulation and melted down for their silver content. Therefore, the enormous numbers of Morgan dollars, “recently discovered, in mint condition, in an old vault,” is only a predictable fabrication designed to sell the fakes to the gullible.

Official specifications, including weight of originals

Morgan Dollars

Minted: 1878 to 1904, 1921

Designer: George T. Morgan

Gross weight: 26.73 grams

Composition: .900 silver/.100 copper

Net silver content: 0.77344 oz.

Size: 38.1 mm diameter

 

 

 

 

Date     Mintage for Circulation             Mintage of Proofs             Notes

1878              10,500,000                 750                   Major varieties include the 8 Tail Feathers reverse, 7 Tail Feathers reverse, 7/8 Tail Feathers reverse and Reverse of 1879.  Among Proofs, the 1878 7 Tail Feathers, Reverse of 1879 is the rarest.

1878-CC             2,212,000                                  0            

1878-S             9,774,000                                  0            

1879             14,806,000                                 1,100      

1879-CC             756,000                                     0                      Found with Clear and   

1879-O             2,887,000                                  est. 12       Capped (rusted) .  

                                                                                                mintmarks

1879-S             9,110,000                                  0            

1880                 12,600,000                     1,355      

1880-CC             591,000                                     0            

1880-O             5,305,000                                  0            

1880-S             8,900,000                                  0            

1881                 9,162,991                                  984         

1881-CC             296,000                                     0            

1881-O             5,708,000                                  0            

1881-S             12,760,000                                 0            

1882                 11,100,000                     1,100      

1882-CC             1,133,000                                  0            

1882-O             6,090,000                                  0                      Look for the rare O/S variety.

1882-S             9,250,000                                  0            

1883                 12,290,000                     1,039      

1883-CC             1,204,000                                  0            

1883-O             8,725,000                                  est. 12   

1883-S             6,250,000                                  0            

1884                 14,070,000                     875         

1884-CC             1,136,000                                  3 known   

1884-O             9,730,000                                  Unique   

1884-S             3,200,000                                  0            

1885                 17,787,000                     930         

1885-CC             228,000                                     0            

1885-O             9,185,000                                  0            

1885-S             1,497,000                                  0            

1886                 19,963,000                     886         

1886-O             10,710,000                     0            

1886-S 750,000                                     0            

1887                 20,290,000                     710         

1887-O             11,550,000                     0                      Look for the rare                                                                                                                   1887/6-O overdate.

1887-S             1,771,000                                  0            

1888                 19,183,000                     832         

1888-O             12,150,000                     0            

1888-S 657,000                                     0            

1889                 21,726,000                     811         

1889-CC             350,000                                     0                      Rare, key date issue.

1889-O             11,875,000                     0            

1889-S 700,000                                     0            

1890                 16,802,000                     590         

1890-CC             2,309,041                                  0            

1890-O             10,701,100                     0            

1890-S             8,230,373                                  0            

1891                 8,693,556                                  650         

1891-CC             1,618,000                                  0            

1891-O             7,954,529                                  0            

1891-S             5,296,000                                  0            

1892                 1,036,000                                  1,245      

1892-CC             1,352,000                                  0            

1892-O             2,744,000                                  0            

1892-S             1,200,000                                  0            

1893                 378,000                                     792         

1893-CC             677,000                                     est. 12   

1893-O             300,000                                     0            

1893-S 100,000                                     0                      Rare in all grades.

1894                 110,000                                     972                   Not as rare as the mintage suggests, but still very popular because it “looks” rare.

1894-O             1,723,000                                  0            

1894-S             1,260,000                                  0            

1895     1            2,000                                        880                   None of the circulation strikes has ever been seen…experts believe they were all melted down

1895-O             450,000                                     0            

1895-S 400,000                                     0            

1896                 9,976,000                                  762         

1896-O             4,900,000                                  0            

1896-S             5,000,000                                  0            

1897                 2,822,000                                  731         

1897-O             4,004,000                                  0            

1897-S             5,825,000                                  0            

1898                 5,884,000                                  735         

1898-O             4,400,000                                  0            

1898-S             4,102,000                                  0            

1899                 330,000                                     846         

1899-O             12,290,000                                 0            

1899-S             2,562,000                                  0            

1900                 8,830,000                                  912         

1900-O             12,590,000                                 0            

1900-S             3,540,000                                  0            

1901                 6,962,000                                  813         

1901-O             13,320,000                                 0            

1901-S             2,284,000                                  0            

1902                 7,994,000                                  777         

1902-O             8,636,000                                  0            

1902-S             1,530,000                                  0            

1903                 4,652,000                                  755         

1903-O             4,450,000                                  0            

1903-S             1,241,000                                  0            

1904                 2,788,000                                  650         

1904-O             3,720,000                                  0            

1904-S             2,304,000                                  0            

1921                 44,690,000                                 est. 250             Proofs were made on numismatist Farran Zerbe’s behalf, followed by more made for Henry Chapman.

1921-D             20,345,000                                 0            

1921-S             21,695,000                                 Rumored to exist             Supposedly, Proofs were made on Farran Zerbe’s behalf in 1921.

 

 

 

Date     Mintage forCirculation             Mintage of Proofs             Notes

 

1878              10,500,000         750             Major varieties include the 8 Tail Feathers reverse, 7 Tail Feathers reverse, 7/8 Tail Feathers reverse and Reverse of 1879.  Among Proofs, the 1878 7 Tail Feathers, Reverse of 1879 is the rarest.

1878-CC             2,212,000          0            

1878-S             9,774,000          0            

1879             14,806,000         1,100      

1879-CC             756,000             0             Found with Clear and Capped (rusted) mintmarks.

1879-O             2,887,000          est. 12   

1879-S             9,110,000          0            

1880             12,600,000         1,355      

1880-CC             591,000             0            

1880-O             5,305,000          0            

1880-S             8,900,000          0            

1881             9,162,991          984         

1881-CC             296,000             0            

1881-O             5,708,000          0            

1881-S             12,760,000         0            

1882             11,100,000         1,100      

1882-CC             1,133,000          0            

1882-O             6,090,000          0             Look for the rare O/S variety.

1882-S             9,250,000          0            

1883             12,290,000         1,039      

1883-CC             1,204,000          0            

1883-O             8,725,000          est. 12   

1883-S             6,250,000          0            

1884             14,070,000         875         

1884-CC             1,136,000          3 known   

1884-O             9,730,000          Unique   

1884-S             3,200,000          0            

1885             17,787,000         930         

1885-CC             228,000             0            

1885-O             9,185,000          0            

1885-S             1,497,000          0            

1886             19,963,000         886         

1886-O             10,710,000         0            

1886-S 750,000             0            

1887             20,290,000         710         

1887-O             11,550,000         0             Look for the rare 1887/6-O overdate.

1887-S             1,771,000          0            

1888             19,183,000         832         

1888-O             12,150,000         0            

1888-S 657,000             0            

1889             21,726,000         811         

1889-CC             350,000             0             Rare, key date issue.

1889-O             11,875,000         0            

1889-S 700,000             0            

1890             16,802,000         590         

1890-CC             2,309,041          0            

1890-O             10,701,100         0            

1890-S             8,230,373          0            

1891             8,693,556          650         

1891-CC             1,618,000          0            

1891-O             7,954,529          0            

1891-S             5,296,000          0            

1892             1,036,000          1,245      

1892-CC             1,352,000          0            

1892-O             2,744,000          0            

1892-S             1,200,000          0            

1893     378,000             792         

1893-CC             677,000             est. 12   

1893-O             300,000             0            

1893-S 100,000             0             Rare in all grades.

1894     110,000             972             Not as rare as the mintage suggests, but still very popular because it “looks” rare.

1894-O             1,723,000          0            

1894-S             1,260,000          0            

1895     12,000             880             None of the circulation strikes has ever been seen…experts believe they were all melted down

1895-O             450,000             0            

1895-S 400,000             0            

1896             9,976,000          762         

1896-O             4,900,000          0            

1896-S             5,000,000          0            

1897             2,822,000          731         

1897-O             4,004,000          0            

1897-S             5,825,000          0            

1898             5,884,000          735         

1898-O             4,400,000          0            

1898-S             4,102,000          0            

1899     330,000             846         

1899-O             12,290,000         0            

1899-S             2,562,000          0            

1900             8,830,000          912         

1900-O             12,590,000         0            

1900-S             3,540,000          0            

1901             6,962,000          813         

1901-O             13,320,000         0            

1901-S             2,284,000          0            

1902             7,994,000          777         

1902-O             8,636,000          0            

1902-S             1,530,000          0            

1903             4,652,000          755         

1903-O             4,450,000          0            

1903-S             1,241,000          0            

1904             2,788,000          650         

1904-O             3,720,000          0            

1904-S             2,304,000          0            

1921             44,690,000         est. 250             Proofs were made on numismatist Farran Zerbe’s behalf, followed by more made for Henry Chapman.

1921-D             20,345,000         0            

1921-S             21,695,000             Rumored to exist             Supposedly, Proofs were made on Farran Zerbe’s behalf in 1921.

Note: It is very important to understand that most of these coins were removed from circulation and melted down for their silver content. Therefore, the enormous numbers of Morgan dollars, “recently discovered, in mint condition, in an old vault,” is only a predictable fabrication designed to sell the fakes to the gullible.

Official specifications, including weight of originals

Morgan Dollars

Minted: 1878 to 1904, 1921

Designer: George T. Morgan

Gross weight: 26.73 grams

Composition: .900 silver/.100 copper

Net silver content: 0.77344 oz.

Size: 38.1 mm diameter

Indian Head $2.50 gold coin

 

Designer  Bela Lyon Pratt

Gross weight: 4.18 grams

Net Weight .12094 oz pure gold

Composition: .900 gold, 100 copper

Diameter: 18 mm, reeded edge

Mints: Philadelphia  1908-1915, 1926-1929

Denver 1911, 1914, 1925

Indian head $5.00 gold coin

Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt

Gross weight: 8.359 grams

Gold content: 0.24187 oz

Composition: 90% gold, 10% copper

Diameter: 21.6 mm

Dates: 1908-16m, 1929

Reeded edge

Mints:

Denver (1908-11; 1914), Philadelphia (1908-15; 1929), San Francisco (1908-16

 

 

Indian head $10.00 gold

Designer: Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Gross weight: 16.718 grams

Net weight: .48375 oz pure gold

Composition: .900 gold, 100 copper

Diameter: 27 mm, Raised stars on edge

Mints: Philadelphia  1907-1933, San Francisco 1908-1930

Denver: 1908-1914

 

            `While many of these fake coins are widely advertised in the American prnit and television media, many are also sold on eBay

 

            These single-coin auctions are usually listed with a starting price of 5 or 10 cents, and they usually close around those prices when the swindler  gets a buyer. These fake coins cost the Chinese about 50 cents to make but the swindlers make most of their profit from the shipping expense they collect from their victims.

 

            This is a common practice with China-based sellers on eBay. They sell the counterfeit item very cheaply, but then charge as much as $70 or more for shipping. Doing this serves two useful functions. First, their Final Value Fee expense is minimal, since eBay bases this fee on the auction’s closing price. Secondly, if an item is returned to the seller for some reason, the buyer can only recover that minimal bid amount since shipping and handling is typically nonrefundable.

 

            China’s Number One Coin Counterfeiter!

            Liu Ciyun (who prefers to be known by his eBay handle, “Jinghuashei”) is a typical young upwardly-mobile Chinese suburbanite. Married, with a 2-year-old son, Jinghuashei has worked hard the past few years to build a business.

 

            Like most legitimate businessmen, Jinghuashei operates within the laws of his country, and has earned official certification for his small production facility, which employs up to 30 people. The products he sells are properly licensed, where appropriate, and absolutely, 100 percent legal to produce and sell in China.

 

            The only fault that most Americans might find with Jinghuashei’s business model is that he is in the business of producing counterfeit coins.

 

             Jinghuashei’s company is called the Big Tree Coin Factory. It is located in the Fujian (also known as Fukien) province in the southeast portion of the People’s Republic of China. This area is well known to be a hotbed of counterfeiting activity and Jinghuashei acknowledges being aware of approximately 100 competitors who are manufacturing fake coins.

 

             Jinghuashei says that his coin factory is probably the largest of its type in China. It produces in excess of 100,000 fake coins per month for Chinese coin types alone.

 

            He says he is currently only selling about 1,000 counterfeit U.S. coins per month, mostly on eBay. His primary motivation for servicing this comparatively small volume business is that he is making contacts with people he hopes will come to China to buy counterfeit coins on a wholesale basis.

 

             Jinghuashei also claims a sales volume of several thousand counterfeit coins per month in world coin types.

 

            Legal business

             Jinghuashei is forthcoming about his business practices. He is certain that he is operating legally in China, which requires that the coins he makes are dated 1949 or earlier. As long as he sticks to this one important regulation and maintains his business certification (license), he says he has nothing to fear from the authorities in China.

 

            But what about the United States of America?

 

            Isn’t he worried that the Secret Service or some other U.S. government agency will come after him for making counterfeit U.S. coins? After all, the coins struck by the U.S. Mint, regardless of date, are all still legal tender, and thus subject to U.S. coin counterfeiting laws. It is illegal for him to sell these coins in the United States, even via eBay.

 

             Jinghuashei responds by claiming that he is operating within the confines of the Hobby Protection Act, a U.S. law that requires all nongenuine numismatic items produced after 1973 to be permanently and conspicuously counterstamped with the word COPY. When informed that his eBay auctions are not in compliance with this law, because he is using a punch that says REPLICA, he seems unconcerned.

 

            Despite numerous online chats and e-mail exchanges with him in which the U.S. law has been discussed, Jinghuashei still hasn’t changed his punch to be in compliance.

 

             Although he has never said it outright, it is apparent he feels invulnerable to U.S. law enforcement because they are unlikely to go all the way to China to prosecute him for the relatively small sums of money his eBay sales generate.

 

            The word “replica” was used in conversations with and questions of Jinghuashei since that is the term he prefers and he appears to be more open to talking than if the terms “counterfeit” or “fake” are used.

 

             Production costs

             Jinghuashei acknowledges that the minting equipment currently used in his Big Tree Coin Factory is old and the images he provided show a cramped and dirty environment. But that helps to keep Big Tree’s coin manufacturing costs very low. He says he has access to more modern presses when he needs them.

 

             Jinghuashei says it costs him only 8 cents each to produce each fake Chinese coin using iron-based planchets. Counterfeit U.S. coins cost more – an average of 50 cents each – because the copper and nickel planchet alloys cost him more to make. Jinghuashei says these figures include his entire expense, including materials, labor and marketing.

 

            On eBay, Jinghuashei’s single-coin auctions are usually listed with a starting price of 5 or 10 cents, and they usually close around those prices when he gets a buyer.

 

            Asked how he makes a profit if it costs 50 cents each to make his coins, he explains that he makes most of his profit from the shipping expense he collects from buyers.

 

 This is a common practice with China-based sellers on eBay. They sell the item very cheaply, but then charge as much as $70 or more for shipping. Doing this serves two useful functions. First, their Final Value Fee expense is minimal, since eBay bases this fee on the auction’s closing price. Secondly, if an item is returned to the seller for some reason, the buyer can only recover that minimal bid amount since shipping and handling is typically nonrefundable.

 

            Most of the Big Tree Coin Factory’s current profits are coming from the large number of fake Chinese coins it produces. Many of these coins are replicas of ancient Chinese coins. There is a strong demand for them at flea markets and in tourist zones. Jinghuashei does an active wholesale business in fake Chinese coins, most of which are sold within China itself.

 

            Some of the photos Jinghuashei provided of his storefront operation, the Big Tree Temple Coin Shop, depict fake Chinese artifacts, but he says that some of the goods for sale in the shop are produced by other counterfeiters.

 

            Also evident in photos he provided are what appear to be slabs similar to ANACS slabs, and containing fake U.S. coins. When queried about the slabs in this photo, he became very wary.

 

Reprint from Coinworldonline.com

 

Tungsten Alloy for Gold Substitution

WHY TUNGSTEN ALLOY IS USED AS GOLD SUBSTITUTION?In theory, as density is 19.1g/cm3, which is approximately 70% denser than lead, uranium could be used as material of making fake coin. However, it is weakly radioactive and not as dense as gold, so it does not appear to be a practical method. Then people have discovered that tungsten is environmental-friendly, durable and hardness, the most important is that its density of 19.25g/cm3 is just about the same density as gold (19.3g/cm3), which bears the similar specific gravity. These advantages make tungsten alloy jewelry enjoys the superiority to be the best substitute for the costly metal of gold or platinum. It is necessary to tell that tungsten gold-plated would not work for several reasons but a coin with a tungsten center and gold all around it could not be detected as counterfeit by density measurement alone.

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