Originally published at WIRED by John Borland on 12/29/13
HAMBURG – A new foundation to support whistleblowers is being launched by former British intelligence agent Annie Machon, whose resignation and revelations about U.K. spying activities in the 1990s sparked controversy echoing this year’s NSA news.
Speaking at the Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) here, Machon said the foundation would be called the Courage Fund to Protect Journalistic Sources.
“Crucially, we want to encourage other whistleblowers to come forward,” she said. “It is a very frightening and lonely process to go through. We need to show that they can not only survive the process, but even flourish.”
Machon’s experience in the 1990s in some senses prefigured what sources such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning are going through today.
An intelligence officer with the British MI5 service for six years, she and her partner resigned in 1997 and made public a number of allegations about secret and potentially criminal activities.
Among these, they alleged that intelligence services had been keeping secret files on government ministers, had illegally tapped phones, had failed to stop Irish Republican Army bombs and subsequently lied about their actions, that people known to be innocent had been convicted of bombing crimes, and – most explosively – that MI6 had sought to have Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi assassinated.
She and her partner were forced on the run in Europe for the next year, and her partner ultimately went to prison twice for… Continue reading
Originally published at the Nation by Katherine Hawkins on 11/7/13
Over four years after President Obama promised to “look forward, not backward” regarding the CIA’s brutal treatment of captives under the Bush administration, the issue has not gone away. The torture debate may fade from the headlines for weeks or months at a time, but it al
ways come back. Last year the trigger was the release of Zero Dark Thirty. A few weeks ago, it was Abu Anas al-Libi’s capture, shipboard interrogation and transfer to the United States for trial. Later this year, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) will vote on whether to begin declassification of its 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects.
Often, debates about torture focuses on whether it leads to high-profile counterterrorism successes: the killing of Osama bin Laden, the capture of high-level suspects like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the disruption of terrorist plots against Los Angeles or London. The public evidence suggests—and according to Democratic senators, the SSCI report will definitively prove—that defenders of “enhanced interrogation” have greatly exaggerated the role that torture played in these events.
In all the debates about whether torture “worked,” though, there is another part of the record that is almost always forgotten: the attacks that torture did not prevent. There are no documented cases of “ticking time bombs” being defused by torture. But there are Al Qaeda plots that were not stopped,… Continue reading
Originally published at Aljazeera America by Jason Leopold on 10/30/13
The National Security Agency advised its officials to cite the 9/11 attacks as justification for its mass surveillance activities, according to a master list of NSA talking points.
The document, obtained by Al Jazeera through a Freedom of Information Act request, contains talking points and suggested statements for NSA officials (PDF) responding to the fallout from media revelations that originated with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Invoking the events of 9/11 to justify the controversial NSA programs, which have caused major diplomatic fallout around the world, was the top item on the talking points that agency officials were encouraged to use.
Under the subheading “Sound Bites That Resonate,” the document suggests the statement “I much prefer to be here today explaining these programs, than explaining another 9/11 event that we were not able to prevent.”
NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander used a slightly different version of that statement when he testified before Congress on June 18 in defense of the agency’s surveillance programs.
Asked to comment on the document, NSA media representative Vanee M. Vines pointed Al Jazeera to Alexander’s congressional testimony on Tuesday, and said the agency had no further comment. In keeping with the themes listed in the talking points, the NSA head told legislators that “it is much more important for this country that we defend this nation and take the beatings than it is… Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2013 by Ralph Lopez
The FBI is instructing local police departments and “communities against terrorism” to consider anyone who harbors “conspiracy theories” about 9/11 to be a potential terrorist, in a circular released to local police departments.
The memo thus adds 9/11-official-story skeptics to a growing list of targets described by federal law enforcement to be security threats, such as those who express “libertarian philosophies,” “Second Amendment-oriented views,” interest in “self-sufficiency,” “fears of Big Brother or big government,” and “Declarations of Constitutional rights and civil liberties.”
A newly released national poll shows that 48 percent of Americans either have some doubts about the official account of 9/11, or do not believe it at all.
The FBI circular entitled “Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities Related to Sleepers” says that people who should be ‘considered suspicious’ of possible involvement in “terrorist activity” include those who hold the “attitude” described as ” Conspiracy theories about Westerners.” The circular continues: “e.g. (sic) the CIA arranged for 9/11 to legitimize the invasion of foreign lands.”
“Sleepers” refers to “sleeper cells,” in FBI jargon, which are terrorists awaiting orders to be activated into terrorist activity.
In 1998 it was declassified by the Pentagon that the Joint Chiefs of… Continue reading
By Wendy McElroy
Two events recalled a passage from the Irish poet William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming”:
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world….
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Yeats (1865-1939) wrote “The Second Coming” in 1919 to describe the moral devastation of post-WWI Europe. The “mere anarchy” is not the laissez-faire version of contract and consent between free individuals which produces good will and prosperity. The “mere anarchy” is chaos, a Hobbesian society of all-against-all that comes in the wake of sustained violence. It is a society that guts decency, loots productivity, and rewards the worst within men.
Yeats could be describing America today. Or, at least, the America that might well be tomorrow. The center cannot hold.
The first event was a quiet one; as of yet, it is an event on paper only. On May 13th, 2013, a new rule went into effect. The US Code “Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies” was altered by the Department of Defense to read:
“Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances because:
(1) Such activities are necessary to prevent significant loss of life or wanton destruction of property and are necessary to restore governmental function and… Continue reading
“During calendar year 2012, the Government made 1,856 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for authority to conduct electronic surveillance and/or physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes.”
That somewhat opaque statistic was disclosed in the Justice Department’s latest annual report to Congress on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, filed on Tuesday. As is usually the case, none of the requests for electronic surveillance were denied by the Court.
No matter how it is sliced and diced, the newly disclosed number of applications does not yield much substance. It means that the government submitted an average of 5 requests per day last year for intelligence surveillance or physical search. It is about 5% higher than the number of applications the year before (1,745), but quite a bit lower than the figure from 2007 (2,371).
The number of applications does not correspond directly to the number of targets, since multiple applications may be submitted in the course of an individual investigation. Nor is the outcome of the surveillance or search activity indicated in a way that would tend to validate or invalidate the authorization after the fact.
In any case, the FISA Court did not deny any of the government’s requests for authority to conduct electronic surveillance in whole or in part, the report said, although unspecified modifications were made to 40 proposed orders. The report does not say whether or not any requests for physical search were disapproved or modified.
The government also made 212 applications for access to business… Continue reading
by Wendy McElroy
The Dollar Vigilante
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is tightening its grip on domestic travel. I don’t mean the random, unpredictable security checks at bus, subway and train stations which already exist. I mean a coordinated and systematic police control of internal travel within America. Groundwork is being laid.
APPLICATION TO MAKE U.S. INTO AN AIRPORT SCREENING ZONE
The application was tucked away on page 71431 of Volume 77, Number 231 of the Federal Register (November 30). It was surrounded by soporific references to forwarding “the new Information Collection Request (ICR) abstracted below to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA).”
The application for funding from the TSA constitutes a preliminary step toward systematically expanding TSA‘s authority from airports to highways and almost every other means of public travel. The expansion would erase one of the last remaining differences between the US and a total police state; namely, the ability to travel internally without being under police surveillance. The total police state you experience at airports wants to spill into roads and bus stops, to subways and trains. Or, rather, the TSA wants to solidify and spread the fledgling and erratic presence it already has.
The official request reads, “TSA‘s Highway BASE program [Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement] seeks to establish the current state of security gaps and implemented countermeasures throughout the highway mode of transportation by posing questions to… Continue reading
by Ryan Gallagher
When a former senior White House official describes a nationwide surveillance effort as “breathtaking,” you know civil liberties activists are preparing for a fight.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that the little-known National Counterterrorism Center, based in an unmarked building in McLean, Va., has been granted sweeping new authority to store and monitor massive datasets about innocent Americans.
After internal wrangling over privacy and civil liberties issues, the Justice Department reportedly signed off on controversial new guidelines earlier this year. The guidelines allow the NCTC, for the first time, to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, using “predictive pattern-matching,” to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. The data the counterterrorism center has access to, according to the Journal, includes “entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others.”
Notably, the Journal reports that these changes also allow databases about U.S. civilians to be handed over to foreign governments for analysis, presumably so that they too can attempt to determine future criminal actions. The Department of Homeland Security’s former chief privacy officer said that it represents a “sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public.”
The snooping effort, which officials say is subject to “rigorous oversight,” is reminiscent of the so-called Total Information Awareness initiative, dreamt up in the aftermath of 9/11 by the Pentagon’s research unit DARPA. The aim of the TIA initiative was essentially to create… Continue reading
U.S. Courts Have Denied Recourse
December 11, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Law School’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic today filed a petition against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) for the unlawful detention and torture of José Padilla, a U.S. citizen, whom the United States detained and interrogated for four years.
The petition was filed by Padilla’s mother, Estella Lebron, on her own and on her son’s behalf. Padilla and Lebron had previously filed federal lawsuits – since dismissed – against current and former government officials for their roles in Padilla’s torture and other abuse.
The petition is an international complaint asking the IACHR, which is an independent human rights body of the Organization of American States, to conduct a full investigation into the human rights violations suffered by Padilla; to find that his mistreatment violated the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man; and to recommend that the United States publicly acknowledge the violations and apologize for its unlawful conduct.
“The U.S. justice system denied a day in court to a U.S. citizen who was arrested and then tortured on U.S. soil by his own government,” said Steven Watt, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. “The U.S. has historically been a leader in ensuring access to justice for human rights violations around the world, but it has effectively closed the courtroom door to all victims and survivors… Continue reading
September 8, 2012
By Victoria N. Alexander
“9/11: Explosive Evidence – Experts Speak Out” is getting public attention and casting doubt on the scientific validity of the U.S. government’s investigation into the WTC tragedy. PBS is the first major network to air the program.
Just days away from the 11th anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy and months away from the U.S. presidential election, a game-changing 9/11 documentary is ranking number three among “most watched” documentaries on PBS and number one among “most shared.” Available for free online August 18th – September 4th, the documentary could have a significant effect on public opinion. [Update: PBS has extended viewing indefinitely.] Both the Republicans and Democrats, as equally staunch defenders of the official story, stand to be affected if the public’s suspicion of government corruption grows deeper.
An earlier report on Digital Journal found that the claims made in the documentary can be verified by reading the government reports themselves. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the government agency charged with the investigation, did not provide any data — no measurements or estimates — of the mass or energy that would be required to bring down the buildings in about ten seconds. Normally a scientific report would present all the data that is used to construct a theory. The omission of data is a red flag to anyone familiar with scientific procedure. It appears that the investigators may have intentionally produced reports that the scientific community would reject.… Continue reading
August 9, 2012
New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Hijacking Exercises, Air Force One’s Movements, Laura Bush on Sept. 11, and More
History Commons is only halfway towards its summer fundraising goal. Please contribute generously to help the History Commons stay alive and functioning.
A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, most of which provide new details about the events of the day of September 11, 2001.
Other entries are being posted in the US Civil Liberties project on campaign finance, voting laws, and indefinite detentions.
New 9/11 Entries
One new timeline entry describes a training exercise based on the scenario of a possible terrorist attack that was run on the morning of September 11 by the US Coast Guard in Tampa Bay, Florida, quite close to Sarasota, where the president was at the time. Another entry deals with a meeting scheduled to take place at the Pentagon that morning, regarding a planned “disaster exercise” at the nearby Navy Annex building.
An entry reveals that a number of FBI agents had, for reasons that are unknown, already arrived at the Navy Annex when the Pentagon was hit. Later on, the Navy set up a new command center at the Navy Annex, after its original command center was destroyed in the Pentagon attack.
July 17, 2012
By Matt Zimmerman
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Since the first national security letter statute was passed in 1986, the FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of such letters seeking private telecommunications and financial records of Americans without any prior approval from courts. Indeed, for the period between 2003 and 2006 alone, almost 200,000 requests for private customer information were sought pursuant to various NSL statutes. Prior to 2011, the constitutionality of this legal authority to investigate the records of Americans without court oversight had been challenged in court — as far as we know — exactly one time. EFF is today releasing FBI-redacted briefing from a major new ongoing case in which it is challenging one of the NSL statutes on behalf of a telecommunications company that received an NSL in 2011. Not only does this briefing show that the Department of Justice continues to strongly protect the FBI’s NSL authority, it highlights a startlingly aggressive new tactic used by the Department of Justice: suing NSL recipients who challenge the FBI’s authority, arguing that court challenges to such authority themselves amount to breaking the law.
National security letter statutes — five in all — are controversial laws that allow the FBI to easily bypass courts and issue administrative letters on their own authority to telecommunications companies and financial institutions demanding information about their customers. The NSL statutes permit the FBI to permanently gag service providers from revealing the fact that the demand was made, preventing them from… Continue reading
by Susanne Posel
President Obama has usurped all available forms of communication for use and discretion of the US government. Under an Executive Order (June 6, 2012) entitled Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions, Obama has enabled the executive branch to control communications “under all circumstances to ensure national security, effectively manage emergencies, and improve national resilience.” (For full text of the Executive Order, seen Annex below).
Radio and wired communications systems “of all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public must inform the development of national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) communications policies, programs, and capabilities.”
Cellular phone corporations like Sprint owned Boost Mobile have released messages to their customers concerning the US government’s allocation of their phone communications at the whim of the President. In a text message to customers, Boost Mobile said that: “. . . you can receive national and local emergency alerts directly on your phone.”
Back in 2011, Hillary Clinton admitted that the US government, via the mainstream media, is losing their “information war” with the American public. As alternative media becomes more prevalent, the propaganda must be taken up a notch in order to keep the masses onboard with the agendas of the US government.
Danny Schechter, filmmaker and investigative journalist, explains that MSM cannot compete with the alternative media. Schechter says that “America feels on the defensive because it can no longer” monopolize the thoughts of citizens domestically and abroad. Since the US government thinks “its point of view is the only point of view” these new news outlets are “extremely damaging” to the US continual purveyance of propaganda.
The Presidential Alert was announced in August of 2011, wherein the Commissioners for the FCC required that television, radio stations and cable systems (including satellites) will redirect broadcasting if the President wants to “alert Americans of impending danger”. Continue reading
A newly uncovered Army document details U.S. internment camps on American soil .
Ryan Cummings, Contributor Activist Post
The topic of civilian internment camps in the United States has been largely dismissed as a paranoid “conspiracy theory” by the mainstream media. Recent legislation and newly uncovered government documents, however, reveal the sad truth: The United States is quickly descending into a full-blown authoritarian police state.
NDAA 2012: Patriot Act Part Two
On December 31, 2011, while the majority of Americans were busy watching balls drop and drinking themselves into oblivion, President Obama quietly signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. This unprecedented legislation effectively codified the executive branch’s authority to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial, stripping them of their Constitutional right to due process and habeas corpus.
Under this legislation, if you are simply “suspected” of providing support to a group the government classifies as a terrorist organization–or an affiliate or associated force of said organization–you can be rounded up and detained until the end of the “War on Terror”–a war, according to policy makers, that has no end.
Over the course of this endless and prefabricated war, the government’s definition of “terrorist” has slowly shifted post 9/11 from Al Qaeda, a group of dubious power initially funded and supported by the CIA and the Pakistani ISI , to such “domestic terrorists” as Occupy Wall Street protestors , pro-life advocates and Ron Paul supporters . When the FBI set-up a band of dimwitted… Continue reading
Agency Used Contracts to Censor Whistleblowers
April 10, 2012
Washington, D.C. April 10, 2012 — Today, the National Whistleblowers Center (NWC) revealed that the FBI required employees to sign employment contracts that are illegal under Federal law. The NWC launched the investigation in response to a nearly year long campaign by the FBI to prevent the publication of whistleblower Sibel Edmonds’ new book, “Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story”.
On April 26, 2011, Ms. Edmonds followed official procedure and submitted her manuscript to the FBI for pre-publication clearance. Under the terms of her employment agreement and controlling regulations, the FBI was required to review and approve the submission within thirty (30) days. Instead of complying with the law, the FBI intentionally stalled the approval process for over 341 days and has still refused to “clear” the book for publication.
Ms. Edmonds will speak today for the first time about the FBI’s attempts to suppress her book. The interview will be aired live at 1:30pm ET on Honesty Without Fear, and the podcast will also be available for download.
The NWC is also releasing documentation confirming that the FBI required employees, including Ms. Edmonds, to sign the illegal contracts that allowed the FBI to censor issues of “public policy” it found embarrassing. According to Ms. Edmonds attorney, Stephen M. Kohn, “the controlling law strictly limits government’s ability to censor its employees. Agencies like the FBI may require pre-publication review of its employees’ writings, but may only… Continue reading
By Glenn Greenwald
The ACLU is suing the Obama administration under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking to force disclosure of the guidelines used by Obama officials to select which human beings (both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals) will have their lives ended by the CIA’s drone attacks (“In particular,” the group explains, the FOIA request “seeks to find out when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killing”). The Obama administration has not only refused to provide any of that information, but worse, the CIA is insisting to federal courts that it cannot even confirm or deny the existence of a drone program at all without seriously damaging national security; from the CIA’s brief in response to the ACLU lawsuit:
. . .
What makes this so appalling is not merely that the Obama administration demands the right to kill whomever it wants without having to account to anyone for its actions, choices or even claimed legal authorities, though that’s obviously bad enough (as I wrote when the ACLU lawsuit was commenced: “from a certain perspective, there’s really only one point worth making about all of this: if you think about it, it is warped beyond belief that the ACLU has to sue the U.S. Government in order to force it to disclose its claimed legal and factual bases for assassinating U.S. citizens without charges, trial or due process of… Continue reading
By Trevor Timm
Electronic Frontier Foundation
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signed expansive new guidelines for terrorism analysts, allowing the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) to mirror entire federal databases containing personal information and hold onto the information for an extended period of time–even if the person is not suspected of any involvement in terrorism. (Read the guidelines here).
Despite the “terrorism” justification, the new rules affect every single American. The agency now has free rein to, as the New York Times’ Charlie Savage put it, “retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats ” and expands the amount of time the government can keep private information on innocent individuals by a factor of ten.
From the New York Times:
The guidelines will lengthen to five years — from 180 days — the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said. The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and “data mining them” using complex algorithms to search for patterns that could indicate a threat. (emphasis ours)
Journalist Marcy Wheeler summed the new guidelines up nicely saying, “So…the data the government keeps to track our travel, our taxes, our benefits, our identity? It just got transformed from bureaucratic data into national security intelligence.”
See also these related… Continue reading
By James Bamford
March 15, 2012
The spring air in the small, sand-dusted town has a soft haze to it, and clumps of green-gray sagebrush rustle in the breeze. Bluffdale sits in a bowl-shaped valley in the shadow of Utah’s Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. It’s the heart of Mormon country, where religious pioneers first arrived more than 160 years ago. They came to escape the rest of the world, to understand the mysterious words sent down from their god as revealed on buried golden plates, and to practice what has become known as “the principle,” marriage to multiple wives.
Today Bluffdale is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members. The brethren’s complex includes a chapel, a school, a sports field, and an archive. Membership has doubled since 1978–and the number of plural marriages has tripled–so the sect has recently been looking for ways to purchase more land and expand throughout the town.
But new pioneers have quietly begun moving into the area, secretive outsiders who say little and keep to themselves. Like the pious polygamists, they are focused on deciphering cryptic messages that only they have the power to understand. Just off Beef Hollow Road, less than a mile from brethren headquarters, thousands of hard-hatted construction workers in sweat-soaked T-shirts are laying the groundwork for the newcomers’ own temple and archive,… Continue reading