TBR News June 6, 2013

Jun 06 2013

The Voice of the White House


        Washington, D.C. June 5, 2013: “It should not come as any kind of a surprise to learn that our government is engaged in all-encompassing domestic spyng against the entire nation. Safe deposit boxes can be searched without a warrant, any banking information is a matter of fact for them to search, ownership of property, a car, a boat or a plane is not secret, travel on America’s air lines is known instantly, citizens making Google searches are automatically reported to the FBI, who also owns Internet II and has a “strong influence” with Facebook. A citizen, who makes a mistake and reports suspicious activity to a governement agency is at once made the subject of an investigation and the Internet is scoured to find any negative reference to any governmental policy, no matter how vicious, murderous or corrupt.”



Revealed: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Americans daily


Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama


June 5 2013

by Glenn Greenwald



             The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.


The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.


The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.


The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.


Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.


The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.


Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.


The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.


The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.


The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.


“We decline comment,” said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.


The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.


The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”. It specifies that the records to be produced include “session identifying information”, such as “originating and terminating number”, the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and “comprehensive communication routing information”.


The information is classed as “metadata”, or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such “metadata” is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.


While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.


It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.


The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, about the scope of the Obama administration’s surveillance activities.


For roughly two years, the two Democrats have been stridently advising the public that the US government is relying on “secret legal interpretations” to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be “stunned” to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.


Because those activities are classified, the senators, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, have been prevented from specifying which domestic surveillance programs they find so alarming. But the information they have been able to disclose in their public warnings perfectly tracks both the specific law cited by the April 25 court order as well as the vast scope of record-gathering it authorized.


Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, explained: “We’ve certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of ‘relevance’ to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretence of constraint or particularized suspicion.” The April order requested by the FBI and NSA does precisely that.


The law on which the order explicitly relies is the so-called “business records” provision of the Patriot Act, 50 USC section 1861. That is the provision which Wyden and Udall have repeatedly cited when warning the public of what they believe is the Obama administration’s extreme interpretation of the law to engage in excessive domestic surveillance.


In a letter to attorney general Eric Holder last year, they argued that “there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.”


“We believe,” they wrote, “that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted” the “business records” provision of the Patriot Act.


Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited “metadata” is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens’ communications activities. Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication.


Such metadata is what the US government has long attempted to obtain in order to discover an individual’s network of associations and communication patterns. The request for the bulk collection of all Verizon domestic telephone records indicates that the agency is continuing some version of the data-mining program begun by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack.


The NSA, as part of a program secretly authorized by President Bush on October 4 2001, implemented a bulk collection program of domestic telephone, internet and email records. A furore erupted in 2006 when USA Today reported that the NSA had “been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth” and was “using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity.” Until now, there has been no indication that the Obama administration implemented a similar program.


These recent events reflect how profoundly the NSA’s mission has transformed from an agency exclusively devoted to foreign intelligence gathering, into one that focuses increasingly on domestic communications. A 30-year employee of the NSA, William Binney, resigned from the agency shortly after 9/11 in protest of the agency’s focus on domestic activities.


In the mid-1970s, Congress, for the first time, investigated the surveillance activities of the US government. Back then, the mandate of the NSA was that it would never direct its surveillance apparatus domestically.


At the conclusion of that investigation, Frank Church, the Democratic senator from Idaho who chaired the investigative committee, warned: “The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.”

Additional reporting by Ewen MacAskill and Spencer Ackerman




Revolt in Turkey: Erdogan’s Grip on Power Is Rapidly Weakening


June 3, 2013

by Özlem Gezer, Maximilian Popp and Oliver Trenkamp



             For a decade, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had a tight grip on power. But it suddenly looks to be weakening. Thousands have taken to the streets across the country and the threats to Erdogan’s rule are many. His reaction has revealed him to be hopelessly disconnected.


             The rooftops of Istanbul can be seen in the background and next to them is a gigantic image of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey’s powerful prime minister is watching over the city — and is also monitoring the work of the political party he controls. At least that seems to be the message of the image, which can be found in a conference room at the headquarters of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).


             These days, though, Istanbul is producing images that carry a distinctly different meaning — images of violent protests against the vagaries of Erdogan’s rule. And it is beginning to look as though the prime minister, the most powerful leader Turkey has seen since the days of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, might be losing control.


             As recently as mid-May, Erdogan boasted during an appearance at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C. of the $29 billion airport his government was planning to build in Istanbul. “Turkey no longer talks about the world,” he said. “The world talks about Turkey.”


             Just two weeks later, he appears to have been right — just not quite in the way he had anticipated. The world is looking at Turkey and speaking of the violence with which Turkish police are assaulting demonstrators at dozens of marches across the country. Increasingly, Erdogan is looking like an autocratic ruler whose people are no longer willing to tolerate him.


             For years, Erdogan seemed untouchable and, at least until the recent demonstrations began, was the most popular politician in the country. He entered office amid pledges to reform the country and introduce even more democratic freedoms. In his gruff dealings with foreign powers, he gave Turkey a new kind of confidence. He broke the grip on power held by the country’s old elite, he kick-started the economy and he calmed the conflict with the country’s Kurdish minority.


Democracy Lost


             But one thing got lost in the shuffle: Democracy. Success made Erdogan even more power-hungry, thin-skinned and susceptible to criticism. Indeed, he began governing in the same autocratic style for which he had bitterly criticized his predecessors. And now, he is faced with significant dangers to his power from several quarters.


             The biggest danger facing the Turkish premier is his own high-handedness. Though he said on Monday that he understood the message being sent by the protesters, there is little evidence that is true. Indeed, his response thus far has shown the degree to which he has become distanced from realities in his country. With hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets, Erdogan has opted for confrontation rather than de-escalation. On Monday morning, he threatened that he would be unable to keep the 50 percent of Turks who voted for him from taking to the streets themselves. Critics see the comment as nothing less than a threat of civil war.


             He said that he won’t allow “a handful of plunderers” to dictate policy. He also branded the marches as being ideological and said that they have been “manipulated by the opposition.” Twitter, he said, is the “greatest threat to the society.” Such sentiments are reminiscent of those Arab dictators who were overthrown in the Arab Spring of 2011.


             Erdogan has recently shown a complete inability to gauge the anger of the country’s Kemalists. He recently offended the secular followers of Atatürk with comments regarding a law aiming to reduce the consumption of alcohol. During a party meeting, Erdogan painted a rhetorical picture of an alcoholic populace: He spoke of police who continually find empty bottles in people’s cars, of husbands who beat their wives and of fathers who are a poor influence due to their consumption of beer.


             Most pointedly, however, he asked if Turkey wanted to follow a law passed by two drunks or the law of God. Since then, the country has been filled with speculation as to who Erdogan may have been referring to. Many believe it was an attack on Atatürk and his Prime Minister Ismet Inönü, who were in office when the ban on alcohol in the country was lifted in 1926. Furthermore, Atatürk is rumored to have died from cirrhosis of the liver. As such, Erdogan’s comments are seen as an attack on a national hero.


             Diverse Protests


             But it isn’t just the Kemalists who are now venting their rage at the Turkish prime minister. Demonstrations have been reported in more than 40 cities, and they are drawing more than students and intellectuals. Families with children, women in headscarves, men in suits, hipsters in sneakers, pharmacists, tea-house proprietors — all are taking to the streets to register their displeasure.


             Thus far, no opposition party has sought to claim the protests as its own. There have been no party flags, no party slogans and no prominent party functionaries to be seen. Kemalists and communists have demonstrated side-by-side with liberals and secularists. Simply calling them all “marauders and extremists,” as Erdogan has sought to do, will not be enough.


             Another threat may also be lurking. In Istanbul, people have begun whispering that the military is distributing gasmasks — but to the demonstrators rather than to the police. The message is clear: The military supports the protests.


             The story is certainly consistent with the Turkish military’s traditional role in society. The generals have long seen themselves as protectors of Atatürk’s legacy and as protectors of a secular Turkey. Indeed, the military has staged three putsches in its history to guarantee Kemalist values: in 1960, in 1971 and again in 1980.


             Erdogan, to be sure, has done his best to reduce the military’s power. He has removed some officers and had others locked away, convicted of conspiracy. It is difficult to predict how the military might now react to the protests. But Erdogan certainly cannot rely on them remaining in their barracks.


             Visit to Tunisia


             Even within his own party, the AKP, Erdogan’s rule has become contentious. Turkish President Abdullah Gül, likewise of the AKP, has been careful to distance himself from Erdogan’s comments over the weekend that citizens should express their opinions at the ballot box. Gül responded that “democracy doesn’t just mean casting a ballot.”


             Turkish law prohibits Erdogan from running for another term. In response, however, he appears to be leaning toward the model followed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan is currently seeking to increase the powers of the Turkish presidency, preparatory to taking over the position himself in 2014. Not everyone in the AKP is behind the plan and speculation of an internal power struggle is rife.


             On Monday morning, after a weekend full of some of the most intense protests Turkey has seen, Erdogan spoke yet again, saying he suspects that “foreign powers” are behind the demonstrations and that Turkish intelligence is investigating. “It is not possible to reveal their names, but we will have meetings with their heads,” Erdogan said, according to the English version of the Turkish daily Hürriyet. The strategy is transparent: The prime minister is doing all he can to portray the protests as an attack on Turkey.


             Erdogan is hoping that will be enough to keep the situation under control for now. This week he embarks on a trip through North Africa. And, after a visit to Morocco, the Turkish premier is scheduled to visit Tunisia — where not so long ago, the people rose up against their autocratic ruler.




Army’s Fingerprint and Iris Databases Head for the Cloud


May 30, 2013

By Spencer Ackerman



             The next time U.S. soldiers snap a picture of your eye or scan your face, they’re likely to store all that personal, physical data in the cloud.


The Army’s Intelligence command recently awarded a sole-source contract to bring the classified Defense Cross-Domain Analytical Capability, a database storing various kinds of security-relevant information the Army collects, onto the proverbial “cloud” of distributed servers and networks. Among the focuses of the project: “integrating Biometrics into the cloud,” according to a description of the contract.


The effort “involves the Entity management and tracking system for Biometrics/Human Terrain Facial recognition capability (photos, video) and edge-to-Cloud Enterprise Messaging (Corps/Division Node to/from Handheld,” says the Army Intelligence and Security Command. “Human Terrain” refers to an Army program in Iraq and Afghanistan that sought to map unfamiliar tribal networks and other social structures. Integrating that into an intelligence database is a major shift, but more on that in a second.


Currently, at least some biometric data is stored locally in the warzone of Afghanistan, in or around where soldiers and marines on patrol take it from locals and insurgents. That limits troops’ ability to exploit it, particularly when they’re mobile: troops who detain a suspicious person in, say, Djibouti won’t necessarily know if he’s already been nabbed in Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere. And supporting mobile operations is key to the whole cloud-storage project. “Mobile support in Cloud Corps Nodes includes provisioning the handhelds as data receivers and summarization of query results for handheld,” the Army command envisions.


But there are drawbacks to migrating the biometric data to the cloud. Among them, familiar to anyone who tries to get at their important GoogleDoc over an overtaxed wi-fi connection at Starbucks, is bandwidth. If it’s bad for you there, it’s much worse for soldiers in the middle of a warzone. “It’s an excellent opportunity when operating in environments like the NYPD can with their mobile biometric devices in all of 3G’s glory,” says a biometrics specialist who worked with the U.S. government in Afghanistan, “but Tora Bora is another story. (Then there’s the expense of supporting and accessing the cloud-based database in a rugged warzone, the specialist adds: “Personally, I think bandwidth is going to cost more than humans.”)


Still, the military is into biometrics in a big way. It’s created and maintained biometrics databases containing literally millions of iris and fingerprint scans from Iraqis and Afghans. The Iraq database has outlasted the Iraq war: it resides permanently at U.S. Central Command in Tampa.


Evidently unsatisfied with the clunky ViewFinder-esque mobile tools for collecting biometric data in the field, in February the Pentagon inked a $3 million research deal with California’s AOptix to check out its smartphone-based biometric identifier, built on an iPhone and iOS. Then there’s all the Pentagon’s additional research into identifying people by the unique pungencies of their body odor and the ways they walk.


It’s worth noting that the architects of the Army’s star-crossed “human terrain” mapping, a much-criticized attempt at warzone anthropology, swore up and down that their interviews with tribal leaders had nothing to do with gathering intelligence. That distinction had much to do with the distaste many anthropologists had with working alongside the military, but architects Montgomery McFate and Steve Fondacaro said they weren’t spying because they weren’t part of the military’s “targeting cycle.”


“[G]iven the vast collection and reporting effort that supports lethal targeting, using HTS [the Human Terrain System] to fulfill this function would be redundant and duplicative,” they wrote in 2012. (.PDF) “Whereas [human intelligence] requires highly specific information about individuals in order to capture or kill, social science, as practiced in HTS, seeks broad contextual information for nonlethal purposes.”


Whatever McFate and Fondacaro’s intentions, folding biometric data from the Human Terrain System into an intelligence database collapses their distinction. Once that information enters the database, nothing stops analysts from marshaling it for potentially lethal military operations. That will have implications if the Army ever again tries to get into the social science business.


The obvious worry for any effort like this, aside from bandwidth, is going to be data security. Military cloud storage is still in its infancy — in 2009, the colonel in charge of the Defense Cross-domain Analytical Capability cautioned, “To a certain degree it’s cloud technology, but we are applying something that’s less bleeding-edge” — and many in uniform fear that they can’t adequately secure a cloud-based infrastructure. It’s a real concern in an age when Chinese cyber-espionage of U.S. military secrets runs deep. The unique physical characteristics of millions of people isn’t something you want to leave vulnerable.


Still, if the military can figure out how to lock down its cloud, the Army looks likely to start storing some of its most sensitive and difficult-to-replicate physical data onto it. The 12-month project kicks off in late August — giving the Army plenty of time to collect more facial, eye and fingerprint information before upload.


Noah Shachtman contributed reporting.


Humanity Imperiled: The Path to Disaster
by Noam Chomsky


What is the future likely to bring?  A reasonable stance might be to try to look at the human species from the outside.  So imagine that you’re an extraterrestrial observer who is trying to figure out what’s happening here or, for that matter, imagine you’re an historian 100 years from now — assuming there are any historians 100 years from now, which is not obvious — and you’re looking back at what’s happening today.  You’d see something quite remarkable.


For the first time in the history of the human species, we have clearly developed the capacity to destroy ourselves.  That’s been true since 1945.  It’s now being finally recognized that there are more long-term processes like environmental destruction leading in the same direction, maybe not to total destruction, but at least to the destruction of the capacity for a decent existence.


And there are other dangers like pandemics, which have to do with globalization and interaction.  So there are processes underway and institutions right in place, like nuclear weapons systems, which could lead to a serious blow to, or maybe the termination of, an organized existence.


How to Destroy a Planet Without Really Trying


The question is: What are people doing about it?  None of this is a secret.  It’s all perfectly open.  In fact, you have to make an effort not to see it.


There have been a range of reactions.  There are those who are trying hard to do something about these threats, and others who are acting to escalate them.  If you look at who they are, this future historian or extraterrestrial observer would see something strange indeed.  Trying to mitigate or overcome these threats are the least developed societies, the indigenous populations, or the remnants of them, tribal societies and first nations in Canada.  They’re not talking about nuclear war but environmental disaster, and they’re really trying to do something about it.


In fact, all over the world — Australia, India, South America — there are battles going on, sometimes wars.  In India, it’s a major war over direct environmental destruction, with tribal societies trying to resist resource extraction operations that are extremely harmful locally, but also in their general consequences.  In societies where indigenous populations have an influence, many are taking a strong stand.  The strongest of any country with regard to global warming is in Bolivia, which has an indigenous majority and constitutional requirements that protect the “rights of nature.” 


Ecuador, which also has a large indigenous population, is the only oil exporter I know of where the government is seeking aid to help keep that oil in the ground, instead of producing and exporting it — and the ground is where it ought to be.


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died recently and was the object of mockery, insult, and hatred throughout the Western world, attended a session of the U.N. General Assembly a few years ago where he elicited all sorts of ridicule for calling George W. Bush a devil.  He also gave a speech there that was quite interesting.  Of course, Venezuela is a major oil producer.  Oil is practically their whole gross domestic product.  In that speech, he warned of the dangers of the overuse of fossil fuels and urged producer and consumer countries to get together and try to work out ways to reduce fossil fuel use.  That was pretty amazing on the part of an oil producer.  You know, he was part Indian, of indigenous background.  Unlike the funny things he did, this aspect of his actions at the U.N. was never even reported.


So, at one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster.  At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible.  Unlike Ecuador, and indigenous societies throughout the world, they want to extract every drop of hydrocarbons from the ground with all possible speed. 


Both political parties, President Obama, the media, and the international press seem to be looking forward with great enthusiasm to what they call “a century of energy independence” for the United States.  Energy independence is an almost meaningless concept, but put that aside.  What they mean is: we’ll have a century in which to maximize the use of fossil fuels and contribute to destroying the world.


And that’s pretty much the case everywhere.  Admittedly, when it comes to alternative energy development, Europe is doing something.  Meanwhile, the United States, the richest and most powerful country in world history, is the only nation among perhaps 100 relevant ones that doesn’t have a national policy for restricting the use of fossil fuels, that doesn’t even have renewable energy targets.  It’s not because the population doesn’t want it.  Americans are pretty close to the international norm in their concern about global warming.  It’s institutional structures that block change.  Business interests don’t want it and they’re overwhelmingly powerful in determining policy, so you get a big gap between opinion and policy on lots of issues, including this one.


So that’s what the future historian — if there is one — would see.  He might also read today’s scientific journals.  Just about every one you open has a more dire prediction than the last.


“The Most Dangerous Moment in History”


The other issue is nuclear war.  It’s been known for a long time that if there were to be a first strike by a major power, even with no retaliation, it would probably destroy civilization just because of the nuclear-winter consequences that would follow.  You can read about it in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.  It’s well understood.  So the danger has always been a lot worse than we thought it was.


We’ve just passed the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was called “the most dangerous moment in history” by historian Arthur Schlesinger, President John F. Kennedy’s advisor.  Which it was.  It was a very close call, and not the only time either.  In some ways, however, the worst aspect of these grim events is that the lessons haven’t been learned.


What happened in the missile crisis in October 1962 has been prettified to make it look as if acts of courage and thoughtfulness abounded.  The truth is that the whole episode was almost insane.  There was a point, as the missile crisis was reaching its peak, when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote to Kennedy offering to settle it by a public announcement of a withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. missiles from Turkey.  Actually, Kennedy hadn’t even known that the U.S. had missiles in Turkey at the time.  They were being withdrawn anyway, because they were being replaced by more lethal Polaris nuclear submarines, which were invulnerable.


So that was the offer.  Kennedy and his advisors considered it — and rejected it.  At the time, Kennedy himself was estimating the likelihood of nuclear war at a third to a half.  So Kennedy was willing to accept a very high risk of massive destruction in order to establish the principle that we — and only we — have the right to offensive missiles beyond our borders, in fact anywhere we like, no matter what the risk to others — and to ourselves, if matters fall out of control. We have that right, but no one else does.


Kennedy did, however, accept a secret agreement to withdraw the missiles the U.S. was already withdrawing, as long as it was never made public.  Khrushchev, in other words, had to openly withdraw the Russian missiles while the U.S. secretly withdrew its obsolete ones; that is, Khrushchev had to be humiliated and Kennedy had to maintain his macho image.  He’s greatly praised for this: courage and coolness under threat, and so on.  The horror of his decisions is not even mentioned — try to find it on the record.


And to add a little more, a couple of months before the crisis blew up the United States had sent missiles with nuclear warheads to Okinawa.  These were aimed at China during a period of great regional tension.


Well, who cares?  We have the right to do anything we want anywhere in the world.  That was one grim lesson from that era, but there were others to come.


Ten years after that, in 1973, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert.  It was his way of warning the Russians not to interfere in the ongoing Israel-Arab war and, in particular, not to interfere after he had informed the Israelis that they could violate a ceasefire the U.S. and Russia had just agreed upon.  Fortunately, nothing happened.


Ten years later, President Ronald Reagan was in office.  Soon after he entered the White House, he and his advisors had the Air Force start penetrating Russian air space to try to elicit information about Russian warning systems, Operation Able Archer.  Essentially, these were mock attacks.  The Russians were uncertain, some high-level officials fearing that this was a step towards a real first strike.  Fortunately, they didn’t react, though it was a close call.  And it goes on like that.


What to Make of the Iranian and North Korean Nuclear Crises


At the moment, the nuclear issue is regularly on front pages in the cases of North Korea and Iran.  There are ways to deal with these ongoing crises.  Maybe they wouldn’t work, but at least you could try.  They are, however, not even being considered, not even reported.


Take the case of Iran, which is considered in the West — not in the Arab world, not in Asia — the gravest threat to world peace.  It’s a Western obsession, and it’s interesting to look into the reasons for it, but I’ll put that aside here.  Is there a way to deal with the supposed gravest threat to world peace?  Actually there are quite a few.  One way, a pretty sensible one, was proposed a couple of months ago at a meeting of the non-aligned countries in Tehran.  In fact, they were just reiterating a proposal that’s been around for decades, pressed particularly by Egypt, and has been approved by the U.N. General Assembly.


The proposal is to move toward establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region.  That wouldn’t be the answer to everything, but it would be a pretty significant step forward.  And there were ways to proceed.  Under U.N. auspices, there was to be an international conference in Finland last December to try to implement plans to move toward this.  What happened? 


You won’t read about it in the newspapers because it wasn’t reported — only in specialist journals.  In early November, Iran agreed to attend the meeting.  A couple of days later Obama cancelled the meeting, saying the time wasn’t right.  The European Parliament issued a statement calling for it to continue, as did the Arab states.  Nothing resulted.  So we’ll move toward ever-harsher sanctions against the Iranian population — it doesn’t hurt the regime — and maybe war. Who knows what will happen?


In Northeast Asia, it’s the same sort of thing.  North Korea may be the craziest country in the world.  It’s certainly a good competitor for that title.  But it does make sense to try to figure out what’s in the minds of people when they’re acting in crazy ways.  Why would they behave the way they do?  Just imagine ourselves in their situation.  Imagine what it meant in the Korean War years of the early 1950s for your country to be totally leveled, everything destroyed by a huge superpower, which furthermore was gloating about what it was doing.  Imagine the imprint that would leave behind.


Bear in mind that the North Korean leadership is likely to have read the public military journals of this superpower at that time explaining that, since everything else in North Korea had been destroyed, the air force was sent to destroy North Korea’s dams, huge dams that controlled the water supply — a war crime, by the way, for which people were hanged in Nuremberg.   And these official journals were talking excitedly about how wonderful it was to see the water pouring down, digging out the valleys, and the Asians scurrying around trying to survive.  The journals were exulting in what this meant to those “Asians,” horrors beyond our imagination.  It meant the destruction of their rice crop, which in turn meant starvation and death.  How magnificent!  It’s not in our memory, but it’s in their memory.


Let’s turn to the present.  There’s an interesting recent history.  In 1993, Israel and North Korea were moving towards an agreement in which North Korea would stop sending any missiles or military technology to the Middle East and Israel would recognize that country.  President Clinton intervened and blocked it.  Shortly after that, in retaliation, North Korea carried out a minor missile test.  The U.S. and North Korea did then reach a framework agreement in 1994 that halted its nuclear work and was more or less honored by both sides.  When George W. Bush came into office, North Korea had maybe one nuclear weapon and verifiably wasn’t producing any more. 


Bush immediately launched his aggressive militarism, threatening North Korea — “axis of evil” and all that — so North Korea got back to work on its nuclear program.  By the time Bush left office, they had eight to 10 nuclear weapons and a missile system, another great neocon achievement.  In between, other things happened.  In 2005, the U.S. and North Korea actually reached an agreement in which North Korea was to end all nuclear weapons and missile development.  In return, the West, but mainly the United States, was to provide a light-water reactor for its medical needs and end aggressive statements.  They would then form a nonaggression pact and move toward accommodation.


It was pretty promising, but almost immediately Bush undermined it.  He withdrew the offer of the light-water reactor and initiated programs to compel banks to stop handling any North Korean transactions, even perfectly legal ones.  The North Koreans reacted by reviving their nuclear weapons program.  And that’s the way it’s been going.


It’s well known.  You can read it in straight, mainstream American scholarship.  What they say is: it’s a pretty crazy regime, but it’s also following a kind of tit-for-tat policy.  You make a hostile gesture and we’ll respond with some crazy gesture of our own.  You make an accommodating gesture and we’ll reciprocate in some way.


Lately, for instance, there have been South Korean-U.S. military exercises on the Korean peninsula which, from the North’s point of view, have got to look threatening.  We’d think they were threatening if they were going on in Canada and aimed at us.  In the course of these, the most advanced bombers in history, Stealth B-2s and B-52s, are carrying out simulated nuclear bombing attacks right on North Korea’s borders. 


This surely sets off alarm bells from the past.  They remember that past, so they’re reacting in a very aggressive, extreme way.  Well, what comes to the West from all this is how crazy and how awful the North Korean leaders are.  Yes, they are.  But that’s hardly the whole story, and this is the way the world is going.


It’s not that there are no alternatives.  The alternatives just aren’t being taken. That’s dangerous.  So if you ask what the world is going to look like, it’s not a pretty picture.  Unless people do something about it.  We always can.


Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.  A TomDispatch regular, he is the author of numerous best-selling political works, including Hopes and Prospects, Making the Future, and most recently (with interviewer David Barsamian), Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).


Mystery of Sarasota Saudis deepens as Justice moves to end lawsuit citing national security


June 3, 2013

by Dan Christensen and Anthony Summers



A senior FBI official has told a Fort Lauderdale federal judge that disclosure of certain classified information about Saudis who hurriedly left their Sarasota area home shortly before the attacks on 9/11 “would reveal current specific targets of the FBI’s national security investigations.”


Records Section Chief David M. Hardy’s assertion is contained in a sworn 33-page declaration filed in support of a Justice Department motion that seeks to end a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed last year by BrowardBulldog.org.


The government’s latest court filings, thick with veiled references to foreign counterintelligence operations and targets, deepen the mystery about a once-secret FBI investigation of Esam and Deborah Ghazzawi and their tenants, son-in-law and daughter, Abdulaziz and Anoud al-Hijji.


The filings by Miami Assistant U.S. Attorney Carole M. Fernandez also seek to justify in the name of national security numerous deletions of information from FBI records about the decade-old investigation that were released recently amid the ongoing litigation.


They do not, however, explain why an investigation the FBI has said found no connection between those Saudis and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people involves information so secret its disclosure “could be expected to cause serious damage to national security.”


The investigation, which the FBI did not disclose to Congress or the 9/11 Commission, was first reported in a September 2011 story published simultaneously by BrowardBulldog.org and The Miami Herald.


It began after neighbors in the gated community of Prestancia reported that the al-Hijjis had suddenly departed their home at 4224 Escondito Circle about two weeks before the attacks. They left personal belongings and furniture, including three newly registered cars, one of them brand new.


According to a counterterrorism officer and Prestancia’s former administrator Larry Berberich, gatehouse log books and photographs of license tags were later used by the FBI to determine that vehicles used by the hijackers had visited the al-Hijji home.


The FBI later confirmed the existence of the probe, but said it found no evidence connecting the Ghazzawis or the al-Hijjis to the hijackers or the 9/11 plot.


The newly released FBI records contradict the FBI’s public denials. One report dated April 4, 2002, says the investigation “revealed many connections” between the Saudis who fled Sarasota and “individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.”


The report goes on to list three of those individuals and connect them to the Venice, Florida, flight school where suicide hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi trained. The names of those individuals were not made public.


The FBI removed additional information in the report, citing a pair of national security exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act.


In his declaration to U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch, the FBI’s Hardy sought to explain those deletions and others. He said information was withheld “to protect an intelligence method utilized by the FBI for gathering intelligence data.” Such methods include confidential informants.


Hardy, who stated that he has been designated a “declassification authority” by Attorney General Eric Holder, said redactions regarding the Sarasota investigation were also made to protect “actual intelligence activities and methods used by the FBI against specific targets of foreign counterintelligence investigations or operations.”


“The information obtained from the intelligence activities or methods is very specific in nature, provided during a specific time period and known to very few individuals,” Hardy said.


No details were provided, but Hardy said the information was “compiled regarding a specific individual or organization of national security interest.” He added that its disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.”


Disclosure would reveal the FBI’s “current specific targets” and “allow hostile entities to discover the current intelligence gathering methods used and reveal the criteria and priorities assigned to current intelligence or counterintelligence investigations,” Hardy said.


“With the aid of this detailed information, hostile entities could develop countermeasures which would, in turn, severely disrupt the FBI’s intelligence gathering capabilities” and damage efforts “to detect and apprehend violators of the United States’ national security and criminal laws.”


For months, the FBI claimed it had no responsive documents regarding its Sarasota investigation. But on March 28, Hardy unexpectedly announced the Bureau had located and reviewed 35 pages of records. It released 31 of them.


Prosecutor Fernandez now contends the FBI conducted a “reasonable search” and that “no agency records are being improperly withheld.”


Her motion asks the court to grant summary judgment in the government’s favor.


Israeli Spying in the US and 911


From: ELITE GAMES: A Study in Power and Profit

by Gregory Douglas



Israeli wiretapping works in the following way in the U.S.:


Every time a call is made in America, it passes through the nation’s elaborate network of switchers and routers run by the phone companies. Custom computers and software, made by companies like Comverse, are tied into that network to intercept, record and store the wiretapped calls, and at the same time transmit them to investigators.


The manufacturers have continuing access to the computers so they can service them and keep them free of technical errors. This process was authorized by the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA. Senior government officials have reluctantly acknowledged that while CALEA made officially authorized, and unauthorized, wiretapping much easier for Federal authorities, it has led to a system that is seriously vulnerable to compromise, and may have undermined the whole wiretapping system.


Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller were both warned on October 18, 2001, in a hand-delivered letter from 15 local, state and federal law enforcement officials, that “law enforcement’s current electronic surveillance capabilities are less effective today than they were at the time CALEA was enacted.”


Congress insists the equipment it permits to be installed is secure. But the complaint about this system is that the wiretap computer programs made by Comverse have, in effect, a back door through which wiretaps themselves can be intercepted by unauthorized parties.


In this case, the chief unauthorized party is the Israeli Mossad and through them, the government and commercial interests of Israel itself.


Adding to the suspicions is the fact that in Israel, Comverse works closely with the Israeli government, and under special programs and gets reimbursed for up to 50 percent of its research and development costs by the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade. But investigators within the DEA, INS and FBI have all privately stated that to pursue or even suggest Israeli spying through Comverse is considered career suicide because of the enormous political and political power wielded by the Israeli lobby, the extremely pro-Israeli American television and print media and many Jewish financial organizations in the United States.


And sources say that while various F.B.I. inquiries into Comverse have been conducted over the years, they have been halted before the actual equipment has ever been thoroughly tested for leaks. A 1999 F.C.C. document indicates several government agencies expressed deep concerns that too many unauthorized non-law enforcement personnel can access the wiretap system. The FBI’s office in Chantilly, Virginia that actually oversees the CALEA wiretapping program, has been among the most concerned about the Israeli ongoing secure communications  threat.


It is the FBI’s office in Quantico, Virginia, that has jurisdiction over awarding contracts and buying intercept equipment. And for years, it has awarded the majority of the business to Comverse. A handful of former U.S. law enforcement officials involved in awarding Comverse lucrative U.S. government contracts over the years now work for the Israeli-based company.


Numerous sources say some of those individuals were asked to leave government service under what knowledgeable sources call “troublesome circumstances” that still remain under administrative review within the Justice Department.


And what concerns investigators most particularly in New York City’s counter terrorism investigation of the World Trade Center attack, is that in a number of cases, suspects they had sought to wiretap and survey immediately changed their telecommunications processes. This began as soon as those supposedly secret wiretaps went into place


There are growing and very serious concerns in a very significant number of top-level American intelligence and counterintelligence entities. Many of these agencies have begun compiling evidence, and instigating a very highly classified investigation, into the very strong probability that the Israeli government is directly involved in this matter and has been from the outset. 


Speaking confidentially, top U.S. intelligence agencies indicate that “the last thing needed is another Pollard scandal.”


In the months following the 9/11 attacks, Federal officials arrested or detained nearly 200 Israeli citizens suspected of belonging to an “organized intelligence-gathering operation.” The Bush administration has deported most of those arrested after Sept. 11, although some are in custody under the new anti-terrorism law. Some of these detainees are being investigated for their possible penetration of known Arab terrorist groups located in the United States, Canada and Europe and through this, having gained specific knowledge of the time and location of the September 11 attacks.


It has been established that Amdocs generated billing data that could be used for intelligence purpose, and a recent Justice Department report describes concerns that the federal government’s own wiretapping system may be vulnerable.


In Los Angeles, in 1997, a major local, state and federal drug investigation suddenly collapsed. The suspects: Israeli organized crime organizations, composed mostly of Russian Jews, with ongoing operations in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Canada, Israel and Egypt.


The allegations: cocaine and ecstasy trafficking, and sophisticated white-collar credit card and computer fraud. . A DEA report under date of December 18 stated that there existed serious security breaches in DEA telecommunications by unauthorized “foreign nationals” — and cites an Israeli-owned firm with which the DEA contracted for wiretap equipment .


The problem: according to classified law enforcement documents, is that the Israeli-based gangsters had the Federal and State law enforcement beepers, cell phones, even home phones under constant surveillance. Some identified Israeli gangsters, who did get caught, readily admitted to having hundreds of confidential law enforcement telephone and beeper numbers and that they had been using them to avoid arrest.    


“This compromised law enforcement communications between LAPD detectives and other assigned law enforcement officers working various aspects of the case. The Israeli-based criminal organization discovered communications between organized crime intelligence division detectives, the FBI and the Secret Service.”


Shock spread from the DEA to the FBI in Washington, and then the CIA. An investigation of the problem, according to law enforcement documents, concluded, “The (criminal) organization has apparent extensive access to database systems used to identify pertinent personal and biographical information.”[Official LAPD intelligence report.]


             .Asked about another sprawling investigation and the detention of 60 Israeli since Sept. 11, the Bush administration treated the questions with circumspection.


             Beyond the those Israelis’ apprehended or detained, (and many deported), since Sept. 11, another group of 140 Israeli individuals were arrested and detained following the attacks in New York and Washington in what government documents describe as “an organized intelligence gathering operation,” designed to “penetrate government facilities.” Most of those individuals said they had served in the Israeli military forces, which is compulsory in Israel.

             But the majority of them also had intelligence expertise, and either worked for Amdocs or other companies in Israel that specialize in wiretapping.


            The Israeli embassy officially denied the charges of an Israeli espionage ring operating in and against the United States. “We are saying what we’ve been saying for months,” spokesman Mark Reguev stated officially: “No American official or intelligence agency has complained to us about this. The story is nonsense. Israel does not spy on the United States.” These denials are viewed by official Washington as being in the same category as the alleged “discovery” of Palestinian documents highly detrimental to the Palestinian cause.


            The general attitude (and the private beliefs) of American officials is that Israel is not truthful and is highly manipulative but may not under any circumstances be challenged because of the immense political power developed in Washington by the pro-Israel lobby, a lobby that is heavily subsidized by pro-Israel businesses and individuals in the United States.


            When this matter surfaced there was genuine and very serious concern at the FBI, the DEA and the INS.


            Further, Israeli officials have expressed considerable concern about disclosure of their activities in the United States, fearing that a full disclosure of this would “greatly enhance a strong, anti-Semitic attitude now prevalent in a large percentage of the American population as a direct result of strong Israeli countermeasures in Arab Palestinian areas.”



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