Colors of Confinement

❝ In 1942, Bill Manbo and his family were forced from their Hollywood home into the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, a Japanese American internment camp in Wyoming. While there, Manbo documented both the bleakness and beauty of his surroundings using Kodachrome film—a technology then just seven years old—to capture community celebrations and to record his family’s struggle to maintain a normal life under the harsh conditions of racial imprisonment.

We live in a nation cruel enough, racist, sufficiently ignorant to repeat both the crime and folly of concentration camps for Americans judged by their religion, ethnicity, whatever trips the trigger of bigotry.

I fear we may yet repeat this crime.

NSA data the White House “needs” to fight terrorists – will be turned over to local police

A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:

❝ A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:What does this rule change mean for you? In short, domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages.

FBI agents don’t need to have any “national security” related reason to plug your name, email address, phone number, or other “selector” into the NSA’s gargantuan data trove. They can simply poke around in your private information in the course of totally routine investigations. And if they find something that suggests, say, involvement in illegal drug activity, they can send that information to local or state police. That means information the NSA collects for purposes of so-called “national security” will be used by police to lock up ordinary Americans for routine crimes. And we don’t have to guess who’s going to suffer this unconstitutional indignity the most brutally. It’ll be Black, Brown, poor, immigrant, Muslim, and dissident Americans: the same people who are always targeted by law enforcement for extra “special” attention.

This basically formalizes what was already happening under the radar. We’ve known for a couple of years now that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the IRS were getting information from the NSA. Because that information was obtained without a warrant, the agencies were instructed to engage in “parallel construction” when explaining to courts and defense attorneys how the information had been obtained. If you think parallel construction just sounds like a bureaucratically sterilized way of saying big stinking lie, well, you wouldn’t be alone. And it certainly isn’t the only time that that national security apparatus has let law enforcement agencies benefit from policies that are supposed to be reserved for terrorism investigations in order to get around the Fourth Amendment, then instructed those law enforcement agencies to misdirect, fudge and outright lie about how they obtained incriminating information — see the Stingray debacle. This isn’t just a few rogue agents. The lying has been a matter of policy. We’re now learning that the feds had these agreements with police agencies all over the country, affecting thousands of cases…

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else. And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.

And if you believe the FBI – for example – only wants Apple to help them break into one cellphone that was used by a terrorist murderer, then, you’re dumb enough to believe just about anything the FBI, CIA, NSA, White House and Congress says is needed to protect you and every other American.

They have lied, again and again. The USA Patriot Act being the biggest lie. Every revision since its first passage has only been to sooth American voters. You should go back to reality TV and Game Shows and ignore any questions about who is watching you – not watching over you – 24 hours a day.

IRS seizes accounts on suspicion, no crime required

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up…

“They’re going after people who are really not criminals,” said David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia. “They’re middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law.”

On Thursday, in response to questions from The New York Times, the I.R.S. announced that it would curtail the practice, focusing instead on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally or seizure is deemed justified by “exceptional circumstances…”

The new policy will not apply to past seizures.

RTFA. Contemptible policies made all the worse by their spread throughout our government. The NSA and FBI meet the same lowlife standard. Not that they’re copycats. They’re just behaving like the rest of the phony/law enforcement/foreign legion scumbags in our government. Regal, self-serving hypocrites.

Like so many police agencies in American government, they’re above the law.

Thanks, Mike

Snowden revealed crimes against US constitution – Al Gore

Gore Snowden

Former US vice-president Al Gore has described the activities of the National Security Agency as “outrageous” and “completely unacceptable” and said whistleblower Edward Snowden has “revealed evidence” of crimes against the US constitution.

Gore, speaking Tuesday night at McGill University in Montreal, said he was in favour of using surveillance to ensure national security, but Snowden’s revelations showed that those measures had gone too far…

Gore had previously said he believed the practice of the NSA collecting US citizens phone records was unlawful and “not really the American way”, but his comments on Tuesday represent his strongest criticism yet.

Asked about Snowden, the NSA whistleblower whose revelations have been reported extensively by the Guardian, Gore said the leaks had revealed unconstitutional practices

Gore, the former vice-president, 2000 Democratic presidential nominee and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said the NSA’s efforts to monitor communications had gone to “absurd” lengths, the Canadian Press reported.

“When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, it’s not always wise to pile more hay on the haystack,” he said…

I voted for Gore in 2000 and he won the vote – just not the election. Courtesy of creeps in black robes in Washington, DC.

I would have voted for him, again, in 2004. John Kerry has inspired nothing but distrust in my mind going all the way back to his opportunist decision to use the anti-war movement to launch his political career.

Kerry – as Obama turned out to be – was the lesser of two evils. Or as I like to put it, I voted against the evil of two lessers.

Obama expands snooping on American citizens

The U.S. government is expanding a cybersecurity program that scans Internet traffic headed into and out of defense contractors to include far more of the country’s private, civilian-run infrastructure.

As a result, more private sector employees than ever before, including those at big banks, utilities and key transportation companies, will have their emails and Web surfing scanned as a precaution against cyber attacks.

Now you understand why the White House and Congress have been planting scare stories throughout the tame media recently.

Under last month’s White House executive order on cybersecurity, the scans will be driven by classified information provided by U.S. intelligence agencies – including data from the National Security Agency (NSA) – on new or especially serious espionage threats and other hacking attempts. U.S. spy chiefs said on March 12 that cyber attacks have supplanted terrorism as the top threat to the country.

The Department of Homeland Security will gather the secret data and pass it to a small group of telecommunication companies and cybersecurity providers that have employees holding security clearances, government and industry officials said. Those companies will then offer to process email and other Internet transmissions for critical infrastructure customers that choose to participate in the program.

By using DHS as the middleman, the Obama administration hopes to bring the formidable overseas intelligence-gathering of the NSA closer to ordinary U.S. residents without triggering an outcry from privacy advocates who have long been leery of the spy agency’s eavesdropping…

Yes, that’s what it actually says: “without triggering an outcry from privacy advocates…”

But as fears grow of a destructive cyber attack on core, non-military assets, and more sweeping security legislation remained stalled, the Obama administration opted to widen the program.

Last month’s presidential order calls for commercial providers of “enhanced cybersecurity services” to extend their offerings to critical infrastructure companies. What constitutes critical infrastructure is still being refined, but it would include utilities, banks and transportation such as trains and highways.

The issue of scanning everything headed to a utility or a bank still has civil liberties implications, even if each company is a voluntary participant.

Another one of those days when someone has to explain to me the difference between Republicans and Democrats on questions of civil liberties. This ain’t George W Bush using his War on Terror to snoop on Americans. This is Barack Obama using his War on Terror to snoop on Americans.

Gee. Not a lot of difference between those last two sentences — is there?

We have become the most spied upon people in world history

In a radio interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin (who’s been one of the best at covering the surveillance state in the US) made a simple observation that puts much of this into context: the US surveillance regime has more data on the average American than the Stasi ever did on East Germans.

Indeed, the American government has more information on the average American than Stalin had on Russians, Hitler had on German citizens, or any other government has ever had on its people.

The American government is collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American.

As the top spy chief at the U.S. National Security Agency explained this week, the American government is collecting some 100 billion 1,000-character emails per day, and 20 trillion communications of all types per year.

He says that the government has collected all of the communications of congressional leaders, generals and everyone else in the U.S. for the last 10 years.

He further explains that he set up the NSA’s system so that all of the information would automatically be encrypted, so that the government had to obtain a search warrant based upon probably cause before a particular suspect’s communications could be decrypted. But the NSA now collects all data in an unencrypted form, so that no probable cause is needed to view any citizen’s information. He says that it is actually cheaper and easier to store the data in an encrypted format: so the government’s current system is being done for political – not practical – purposes…

And as we point out at every opportunity, this is not some “post-9/11 reality”. Spying on Americans – and most of the other attacks on liberty – started before 9/11.

Just in case you thought you might start off the New Year free of paranoia.

Our government is monitoring Main Street America

A detailed, in-depth report from the Washington POST on the state of surveillance – your government keeping an eye on you:

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation’s history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The government’s goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States…

The Cold War is over. Excepting the federal bureaucracy has decreed the security interests of the nation are best served by keeping an eye on you. A bigger, stronger, better-funded apparatus for spying on American citizens than anything ever deemed useful in the bad old days.

Today’s story, along with related material on The Post’s Web site, examines how Top Secret America plays out at the local level. It describes a web of 4,058 federal, state and local organizations, each with its own counterterrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions. At least 935 of these organizations have been created since the 2001 attacks or became involved in counterterrorism for the first time after 9/11…

* Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America.

* The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. It is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the public domain.

* Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.

* The Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings.

RTFA. You may as well know who’s behind the wheel of that black Crown Vic parked down at the foot of your driveway.

Oh, and please – my dear Liberal friends, understand that Barack Obama’s dedication to conformity, spying on citizens, jive rationales for budget-busting copper connivance is in no way different from George W. Bush. The bigot-based followers who transferred their xenophobia from Russians to Arabs aren’t a niche phenomenon.

Craven acquiescence to Big Brother wasn’t limited to conservatives in the day of Uncle Joe McCarthy. Dishwater liberals are just as likely to vote in Congress for “enhanced” security measures as anyone else.

Same as it ever was.