News orgs demand DOJ release secret rules targeting journalists with gag order National Security Letters

Freedom of the Press Foundation recently filed a huge brief in the organization’s case demanding that the Justice Department release its secret rules for targeting journalists with National Security Letters…A coalition of 37 news organizations – including the New York Times, The Associated Press, USA Today, Buzzfeed, and tons more – filed an amicus brief in support of the Freedom of the Press Foundation case, demanding that the Department of Justice do the same…

NSLs are controversial (and unconstitutional) surveillance tools that allow the FBI to collect private information in national security cases without any involvement whatsoever from judges or courts. FPF filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2015 demanding their secret rules for using NSLs on members of the media, and Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press filed the amicus brief on behalf of the thirty seven news organization…

In response to our lawsuit, the Justice Department released to us some documents in December 2015 that confirmed that these secret rules do, in fact, exist. However the agency refused to release the specific rules or even acknowledge where the actual rules are located — even though we already know they appear in the classified annex of the FBI’s Department Investigations and Operations Guide, which is published in redacted form on the FBI’s website…

By exempting National Security Letters (and potentially FISA court orders) from their media guidelines, the Justice Department makes a mockery of the supposed restrictions. Because almost every leak investigation involving the media involves national security, the FBI and DOJ can simply use NSLs to freely get much of the information they would otherwise need to comply with strict rules to get — all in complete secrecy and without any oversight.

Our government and its alphabet soup of spies simply rewrite their way around constitutional protections every time they are caught snooping illegally.

True – a lot a of this corruption started with the Bush Administration’s so-called Patriot Act. National Security Letters containing gag orders are a particularly malevolent police state tool. You can’t tell anyone you’re even being investigated or contacted. But, the Obama Administration hasn’t changed the rules regardless of their public chatter about a return to constitutional law.

Donald Rumsfeld knew what we weren’t told about Iraq

On September 9, 2002, as the George W. Bush administration was launching its campaign to invade Iraq, a classified report landed on the desk of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It came from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and it carried an ominous note.

“Please take a look at this material as to what we don’t know about WMD,” Rumsfeld wrote to Air Force General Richard Myers. “It is big.”

The report was an inventory of what U.S. intelligence knew—or more importantly didn’t know—about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Its assessment was blunt: “We’ve struggled to estimate the unknowns. … We range from 0% to about 75% knowledge on various aspects of their program.”

Myers already knew about the report. The Joint Staff’s director for intelligence had prepared it, but Rumsfeld’s urgent tone said a great deal about how seriously the head of the Defense Department viewed the report’s potential to undermine the Bush administration’s case for war. But he never shared the eight-page report with key members of the administration such as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell or top officials at the CIA…Instead, the report disappeared…

While the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iraq was at the heart of the administration’s case for war, the JCS report conceded: “Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely — perhaps 90% — on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”

The rationale for the invasion has long since been discredited, but the JCS report, now declassified, which a former Bush administration official forwarded in December, nevertheless has implications for both sides in the 2016 presidential race, in particular the GOP candidates who are relying for foreign policy advice on some of the architects of the war, and the Democratic front-runner, who once again is coming under fire from her primary opponent for supporting the invasion.

For these two sets of reasons RTFA. Corrupt policies are repeated many times in the history of our nation because an ignorant electorate may as well be uncaring. We trust too much, too often, in the truthfulness of elected and appointed officials. Often, in more than one administration supposedly in principled opposition.

Yale researcher follows the money that runs the climate denial network


ALEC/Bush flunky Michael Leavitt in 2004AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

This week, Justin Farrell, a professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, released a comprehensive report in Nature Climate Change detailing just who these people opposing climate action are, where their funding comes from, and how the groups they work through are interrelated. Eric Roston reports for Bloomberg:

A loose network of 4,556 individuals with overlapping ties to 164 organizations do the most to dispute climate change in the U.S., according to a paper published today in Nature Climate Change. ExxonMobil and the family foundations controlled by Charles and David Koch emerge as the most significant sources of funding for these skeptics. As a two-week United Nations climate summit begins today in Paris, it’s striking to notice that a similarly vast infrastructure of denial isn’t found in any other nation.

The role of ExxonMobil and the Kochs in influencing climate denial hadn’t been empirically studied before now, according to Justin Farrell, an assistant professor of sociology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the author of the new paper. He said the flow of money from group to group and person to person is often opaque to researchers.

ExxonMobil has maintained for years that it does not fund denial of climate change. A spokesman pointed out that the company’s $100 million founding commitment to Stanford University’s Global Climate & Energy Project was made in 2002, right in the middle of the period covered by the Nature Climate Change study. Representatives for any of the Koch family foundations could not be reached for comment.

Farrell said he focused on ExxonMobil and the Koch foundations because “they are reliable indicators of a much larger effort of corporate lobbying in the climate change counter-movement.” He examined Internal Revenue Service data showing which groups in the network of climate contrarians accepted funding from ExxonMobil or Koch foundations between 1993 and 2013. Recipients from those two sources tend to occupy central nodes in what he calls a “contrarian network.” Groups funded by ExxonMobil or the Kochs “have greater influence over flows of resources, communication, and the production of contrarian information,” Farrell wrote.

You can read more about this study – and more – at Bloomberg.

NSA prepares for cyberwar. Their cyberwar.


Pleasant working conditions, clean air, good pay and no ethical standards whatsoever

According to top secret documents from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden seen exclusively by SPIEGEL, they are planning for wars of the future in which the Internet will play a critical role, with the aim of being able to use the net to paralyze computer networks and, by doing so, potentially all the infrastructure they control, including power and water supplies, factories, airports or the flow of money.

During the 20th century, scientists developed so-called ABC weapons — atomic, biological and chemical. It took decades before their deployment could be regulated and, at least partly, outlawed. New digital weapons have now been developed for the war on the Internet. But there are almost no international conventions or supervisory authorities for these D weapons, and the only law that applies is the survival of the fittest…

The US Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force have already established their own cyber forces, but it is the NSA, also officially a military agency, that is taking the lead. It’s no coincidence that the director of the NSA also serves as the head of the US Cyber Command. The country’s leading data spy, Admiral Michael Rogers, is also its chief cyber wagrrior and his close to 40,000 employees are responsible for both digital spying and destructive network attacks.

From a military perspective, surveillance of the Internet is merely “Phase 0” in the US digital war strategy. Internal NSA documents indicate that it is the prerequisite for everything that follows. They show that the aim of the surveillance is to detect vulnerabilities in enemy systems. Once “stealthy implants” have been placed to infiltrate enemy systems, thus allowing “permanent accesses,” then Phase Three has been achieved — a phase headed by the word “dominate” in the documents. This enables them to “control/destroy critical systems & networks at will through pre-positioned accesses (laid in Phase 0).” Critical infrastructure is considered by the agency to be anything that is important in keeping a society running: energy, communications and transportation. The internal documents state that the ultimate goal is “real time controlled escalation”.

But, our Commander-in-Chief says that United States is a victim of constant assaults. We muct prepare for cyber warfare. We must obey.

Warning, warning, Will Robinson.

Meanwhile, like every other aspect of the most militarized imperial economy in the history of our world – the United States dedicates more energy, funds and propoganda to our own assault on privacy than the sum of the rest of the world. No doubt.

RTFA. Lots of detail. A strong piece of research based – once again – on the crimes committed in our name, for our “defense” by politicians and their wooden-hearted puppets.

We may never find aliens if they’re hip to encryption

snowden tv

Edward Snowden has strongly defended citizens’ rights to encrypt their messages, and has taught journalists how to use encryption to protect themselves from spying programs.

But the NSA whistleblower sees a downside to encrypting so much information: aliens may not be able to spot signs of intelligent life.

Snowden, appearing on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk podcast via a video link from Moscow on Sept. 18, told the astrophysicist how encryption could interfere in our attempts at alien communication.

Done properly, encrypted communication—encoded so that only the intended recipient can read the information—can’t be identified and is indistinguishable from random behavior, Snowden said.

“So if you have an alien civilization trying to listen for other civilizations, or our civilization trying to listen for aliens, there’s only one small period in the development of their society when all of their communication will be sent via the most primitive and most unprotected means,” Snowden said. “So what we are hearing that’s actually an alien television show or, you know, a phone call … is indistinguishable to us from cosmic microwave background radiation.”

Although as Tyson noted on his podcast, alien species might not be so keen on encryption. “Only if they have the same security problems as us,” he told Snowden.

You might hope that some other species with sufficient advancement in science to track down our wee ball of mud in the night sky – might also have moved to social development more reliant upon science and less dependent on superstition and imperial amorality. And may have grown beyond our need for encryption.

Hurricane Katrina — 10 years after

Nearly 10 years after Hurricane Katrina overran New Orleans, the city is still recovering from a disaster that was as much human-caused as natural.

Katrina, which formed on August 23, 2005 and hit the Gulf Coast of the US on August 29, was a massive storm that was likely to wreak havoc in the region regardless of how the government reacted. But the government response was so wildly incompetent that it allowed the worst of the catastrophe to continue and sometimes created entirely new, unnecessary problems…

At least 1,800 people died due to Hurricane Katrina

With a death toll of more than 1,800, Katrina was the third deadliest hurricane in US history after Galveston in 1900 (which killed 8,000 to 12,000 people) and Okeechobee in 1928 (which killed 2,500 to 3,000 people), according to US News and World Report. But Katrina is by far the costliest hurricane in economic terms, running up $108 billion in costs…

The levees failed because of bad engineering, not just because Katrina was too big

More than six months after Katrina hit, the US Army Corps of Engineers released a report in which they took blame for the levees breaking, flat-out admitting that the levees were built in a disjointed fashion based on outdated data. Much of this, the report revealed, was due to a lack of funding — resulting in a flawed system of levees that was inconsistent in quality, materials, and design. Engineers also failed to account for the region’s poor soil quality and sinking land, which created more gaps in barriers…

Federal officials were slow to react to local and state officials’ pleas

After the response to Katrina proved to be its own kind of unmitigated disaster, the Bush administration attempted to shift some of the blame to local and state officials — particularly Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Some media outlets, going by information from administration officials, claimed Blanco didn’t declare a state of emergency.

In fact, Horne noted in the Washington Post, Blanco declared a state of emergency on August 26 — a day before Mississippi and the White House did, and three days before the storm made landfall. And while President George W. Bush vacationed in Texas as the storm hit, Blanco pleaded for the administration to send more aid. At one point, the Louisiana National Guard asked FEMA for 700 buses — but, days later, the agency sent only 100, and it took a week to evacuate flood survivors.

RTFA for more of what you might guess. Between bureaucrats who just don’t do their homework to politicians who govern by ideology rather than evidence-based solutions, we get screwed. Add in the opportunist and cowardly complicity of a Free Press in a Free World that defines itself as entertainment – instead of living up to constitutional mandates – and we get screwed in spades.

Psychologists end collaboration with “national security” interrogations


So, why is Gitmo an exception?

The American Psychological Association…overwhelmingly approved a new ban on any involvement by psychologists in national security interrogations conducted by the United States government, even noncoercive interrogations now conducted by the Obama administration…

The vote followed an emotional debate in which several members said the ban was needed to restore the organization’s reputation after a scathing independent investigation ordered by the association’s board.

That investigation, conducted by David Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer, found that some officers of the association and other prominent psychologists colluded with government officials during the Bush administration to make sure that association policies did not prevent psychologists from involvement in the harsh interrogation programs conducted by the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

The ban was approved by the association’s council by a vote of 156 to 1. Seven council members abstained, while one was recused…

The final vote was met by a standing ovation by many of the council members, as well as the large crowd of observers, which included anti-torture activists and psychology graduate students who had come to the meeting to support the ban. Some wore T-shirts proclaiming “First, Do No Harm,” a reference to the physicians’ Hippocratic oath.

RTFA for all the gory details. I think it stands as mute testimony for the sentiment solidly rooted in many Americans that war criminals like George W Bush and Dick Cheney should stand trial for their crimes.

Members of the APA have been expelled for their role in torture. I think that body would support their prosecution. I hope so, anyway.

Psychologists are also still assigned at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they oversee “voluntary” interrogations of detainees.

Of course a country that spies on its citizens spies on its allies?

American security

France has summoned the US envoy in Paris over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors…

Whistleblower website Wikileaks reports the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Mr Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006-12.

Mr Hollande called the allegations “unacceptable” and is expected to speak with President Obama over the claims.

The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.

Is there any reason to expect the United States to tell the truth about trust and honesty?

The French president called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue and insisted France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security…

The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders…

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims…

A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after the emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.

A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims…

The NSA has come under increased scrutiny since revelations by former employee Edward Snowden…One of the files, dated 2012, is about Mr Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Mr Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement…

According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Mr Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Mr Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.

The main sticking point is the US desire to continue spying on France,” the intercept says.

“Lafayette we are here” no longer describes the arrival of American forces coming to aid of our oldest ally. France, the one nation that stood beside American rebels in our struggle for freedom and democracy.

Not anymore, man.

US refuses to aid Poland investigation of CIA secret prisons


Having no hearts, they put their hands over their wallets

The US is hampering Poland’s investigation into a secret CIA prison by snubbing repeated requests for vital documents, including a Senate report detailing CIA prison locations and practices…

Published in December, the summary of the report by the Senate’s intelligence committee was redacted and did not mention Poland by name, but other facts in it pointed to the country and a secret CIA prison operating there from 2002 to 2003, where terror suspects were submitted to harsh treatment [they mean torture].

Piotr Kosmaty, spokesman for the Appeals Prosecutor’s Office in Krakow that is doing the investigation, said Poland immediately asked US justice authorities for a full version of the document, but has had no response. Previous requests for documents and questioning of the alleged victims – now held in Guantánamo Bay –were ignored, he said, and at one point the US authorities said that providing materials would be against US national interests…

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that Poland violated the rights of terror suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by allowing the CIA to imprison them and by failing to stop the “torture and inhuman or degrading treatment” of the inmates.

The court ordered Poland to pay compensation to the two men. Warsaw said it would abide by the ruling.

The US report prompted Polish leaders at the time, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Leszek Miller, to admit – after years of denials – that they authorised a prison, but not torture.

The world waits for Bush and Cheney to be tried for their war crimes – including illegal detention and torture.