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Archive for the ‘totalitarianism’ Category

Thumbing through your dossier

Posted by Charles II on September 29, 2013

Laura Poitras and James Risen have published a story in the NYT that comes close to saying that the government has a dossier on every citizen (via Bob Swern at DK):

Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes….

The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said.

N.S.A. officials declined to say how many Americans have been caught up in the effort, including people involved in no wrongdoing.

The agency did say that the large database of Americans’ domestic phone call records… was excluded.

In the 2011 memo explaining the shift, N.S.A. analysts were told that they could trace the contacts of Americans as long as they cited a foreign intelligence justification. That could include anything from ties to terrorism, weapons proliferation or international drug smuggling to spying on conversations of foreign politicians, business figures or activists. [emphasis added]

Why construct a dossier if you have all the data? Then you can use a search program to compile a dossier on any individual in nanoseconds, and deny you are keeping a dossier on anyone besides “suspects.” When anyone’s past actions can be compiled at will, everyone is a suspect, if only a future one.

By the way, I added the bolding because that’s a point that analysts like Bob Swern and Marcy seem to have missed. What conceivable legitimate function does targeting people based on their conversations with otherwise non-criminal businessmen, politicians, or activists have?

Posted in abuse of power, totalitarianism, wiretapping | 1 Comment »

The NSA has met the enemy, and it is you

Posted by Charles II on September 25, 2013

Greenwald:

A well-known and highly respected Yemeni anti-drone activist was detained yesterday by UK officials under that country’s “anti-terrorism” law at Gatwick Airport, where he had traveled to speak at an event. Baraa Shiban, the project co-ordinator for the London-based legal charity Reprieve, was held for an hour and a half and repeatedly questioned about his anti-drone work and political views regarding human rights abuses in Yemen.

When he objected that his political views had no relevance to security concerns, UK law enforcement officials threatened to detain him for the full nine hours allowed by the Terrorism Act of 2000..
….
…perceiving drone opponents as “threats” or even “adversaries” is hardly new. Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of “propaganda campaigns” from America’s “adversaries”.

The entry is part of a top secret internal US government website, similar in appearance to the online Wikipedia site. According to a June interview with Snowden in Hong Kong, the only individuals empowered to write these entries are those “with top secret clearance and public key infrastructure certificates”, special access cards enabling unique access to certain parts of NSA systems. He added that the entries are “peer reviewed” and that every edit made is recorded by user.

Also yesterday, the Libyan-American rapper Khaled Ahmed, better known by his stage name “Khaled M”, was removed from an airplane in the US without any explanation. …this was part of ongoing harassment he experiences when flying ….

Finally, Sarah Abdurrahman, an American Muslim and producer of the NPR program “On the Media”, was detained for 6 hours at the US border in Niagra Falls when returning from a vacation in Canada with her family (all US citizens).

The NSA is deep into policing political views. I happen to believe that drones are a lot less bad than, say, B-52s. But someone who believes that they represent illegal targeted assassination–and poorly targeted assassination at that– has a legitimate argument that deserves to be heard and not criminalized. Criminalizing dissent is the hallmark of totalitarianism.

Posted in abuse of power, NSA eavesdropping, terrorism, totalitarianism | 2 Comments »

NSA has compromised most encryption

Posted by Charles II on September 5, 2013

Crossposted from DK

I remember when I was thought silly for saying this. James Ball, Julian Borger, and Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian:

US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.

The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees that internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments.

Among other things, the program is designed to “insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems”.

Independent security experts have long suspected that the NSA has been introducing weaknesses into security standards, a fact confirmed for the first time by another secret document. It shows the agency worked covertly to get its own version of a draft security standard issued by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology approved for worldwide use in 2006.

Documents show that Edgehill’s initial aim was to to decode the encrypted traffic certified by three major (unnamed) internet companies and 30 types of Virtual Private Network (VPN) – used by businesses to provide secure remote access to their systems. By 2015, GCHQ hoped to have cracked the codes used by 15 major internet companies, and 300 VPNs.

Another program, codenamed Cheesy Name, was aimed at singling out encryption keys, known as ‘certificates’, that might be vulnerable to being cracked by GCHQ supercomputers.

This was a view echoed in a recent paper by Stephanie Pell, a former prosecutor at the US Department of Justice and non-resident fellow at the Center for Internet and Security at Stanford Law School.

“[An] encrypted communications system with a lawful interception back door is far more likely to result in the catastrophic loss of communications confidentiality than a system that never has access to the unencrypted communications of its users,” she states.

And if you want the details, they are here.

So, even if users of e-mail do have a reasonabel expectation of privacy, they don’t. Because NSA says so.

This is bad for legitimate business and people trying to resist despotism abroad, because as Stephanie Pell says, deliberately broken software is more susceptible to being broken by other methods.

Posted in abuse of power, NSA eavesdropping, totalitarianism, wiretapping | 1 Comment »

By any means necessary

Posted by Charles II on January 21, 2013

Someone might start thinking that the GOP doesn’t believe in democracy:

The state Senate is split 20-20 between Republicans and Democrats. On Monday, while state Sen. Henry Marsh (D) — a 79-year-old civil rights veteran — was reportedly in Washington to attend President Obama’s second inaugural, GOP senators forced through a mid-term redistricting plan that Democrats say will make it easier for Republicans to gain a majority.

With Marsh’s absence, Senate Republicans in Richmond had one more vote than Senate Democrats and could push the measure through. The new redistricting map revises the districts created under the 2011 map and would take effect before the next state Senate elections in Virginia and would redraw district lines to maximize the number of safe GOP seats.

They then, on Martin Luther King Day, adjourned to honor the memory of Stonewall Jackson.

Michael Lind was right in calling conservatives the ideological heirs of Lenin.

Posted in conservativism, Republicans as cancer, totalitarianism | 3 Comments »

In which the Miami Herald endorses communism, fascism, and the Caliphate

Posted by Charles II on October 19, 2012

Really, the American press continues to discover new levels of stupidity.

You may remember that Republican Congressman David Rivera is under investigation for bribes, false election filings, and other criminal acts. The Miami Herald grudgingly concedes he “carries too much political baggage to be an effective member of Congress.” Yeah, like hopefully a ball and chain in the near future.

But they really don’t want to want to endorse Rivera’s Democratic opponent: “Mr. Garcia, 49, is too much of a verbal bomb thrower, a reflection of his work as a Democratic Party stalwart…. What this district needs most is a consensus-builder”

So, see, criminal or partisan Democrat? The choice is difficult!

What The Herald really wants is a one-party state. They’re the perfect newspaper for Mussolini’s Italy or the USSR. Political officials there worked in perfect harmony!

Posted in abuse of power, Media machine, totalitarianism | 1 Comment »

The operative word is “tyranny”

Posted by Charles II on September 24, 2012

Elizabeth Drew, New York Review of Books:

Having covered Watergate and the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and more recently written a biography of Nixon, I believe that the wrongdoing we are seeing in this election is more menacing even than what went on then. Watergate was a struggle over the Constitutional powers and accountability of a president, and, alarmingly, the president and his aides attempted to interfere with the nominating process of the opposition party. But the current voting rights issue is even more serious: it’s a coordinated attempt by a political party to fix the result of a presidential election by restricting the opportunities of members of the opposition party’s constituency—most notably blacks—to exercise a Constitutional right.

This is the worst thing that has happened to our democratic election system since the late nineteenth century, when legislatures in southern states systematically negated the voting rights blacks had won in the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Posted in totalitarianism, voting rights | 3 Comments »

Greece and the Underpants Gnomes; Egypt under the pharaohs

Posted by Charles II on June 17, 2012

Don’t ask me to explain the Greek left. If they had worked together, they would control Greece and could have led it out of the EU currency straitjacket. Instead, left-wing Syriza declined to work with the discredited socialists of PASOK and has ended up with center right discredited New Democracy forming a coalition with discredited PASOK to do the bidding of the EU in a program that will inevitably lead to mass suffering on a scale not seen in many decades in Europe. And according to Syriza, this is great:

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, 37, made clear his was now the main opposition party, swearing to fight on against the bailout and take power sooner or later.

“Very soon, the Left will be in power,” the former communist and student protest leader told elated supporters in central Athens after conceding defeat. “We begin the fight again tomorrow.”

1) Lose power
2) ??????
3) Victory!!!

Of course, Syriza is not half so crazy as the Austerians.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is claiming a narrow victory over the military-backed candidate in the presidential race. Of course, this means nothing since there’s no constitution, no parliament, and the military has reclaimed absolute power:

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood declared on Monday that its candidate Mohamed Morsy won the country’s first free presidential race, beating Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister and ending six decades of rule by presidents plucked from the military.

But shortly before the final result the generals who have run the country since the overthrow of Mubarak issued new rules that made clear real power remains with the army.

The order from Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the chairman to the Supreme Council, indicated that the army, which also controls swathes of Egypt’s economy, has no intention of handing substantial power now to its old adversary the Brotherhood.

“SCAF will carry legislative responsibilities … until a new parliament is elected,” the council’s order said.

In France, the Socialists are now in charge, and have no real power because Europe is in crisis and they’re committed to saving the EU. The only victors in all this seem to be the neo-Nazis. Some people are becoming convinced that none of the moderate parties have any solutions, and are willing to settle for a strongman.

Posted in Arab Spring, Europe, totalitarianism | 2 Comments »

Living while Muslim

Posted by Charles II on March 1, 2012

From the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

From DemocracyNow :

AWUD WALID: Well, being in Michigan, and our national organization, CAIR—and we have an office in New York—we’ve joined other advocates in calling for [NYC Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly to resign. Ray Kelly, as well as his deputy chief, have completely trampled upon the spirit of the United States Constitution and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars with having agents even overseas, much less going through in Connecticut and New Jersey, spying on where Muslims eat kabob to bean pie. A

…Michigan is a very unique state, because under current law, the U.S. Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection has 100-mile jurisdiction from the international border in which they can stop anyone without predication and ask for them to produce proof of citizenship. Because of the Great Lakes being considered international borders, or part of the international border, the entire state of Michigan is within the jurisdiction of U.S. Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection. Therefore, we have instances in Southwest Detroit where Latinos, born and raised here in Detroit, have been stopped and been detained for hours and asked to provide citizenship. We have issues of Muslims at the border and re-entering the border, have been stopped by CBP and asked questions, such as, “Do you pray? How many times a day do you pray? Which mosque do you go to? Who is your imam?” even asking theological questions about how they believe or interpret certain verses of the—in our holy text. So we believe that Customs and Border Patrol—I mean, Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol are completely out of order right now, and they are engaged in racial and religious profiling.[emphasis added]

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is one of the most poorly understood bits of the US Constitution. For a discussion, see Cornell Law. Here, the US is clearly acting to inhibit the free exercise of Islam, which falls under strict scrutiny (i.e., the Court is more inclined to hear such cases than, e.g., a case of incidental aid provided to a religious school). The idea that people would be asked theological questions by government agents is mind-boggling. And since they can be stopped anywhere in Michigan by ICE agents, the whole (large) Muslim community in Michigan is subjected to what the rest of us experience in airports. Imagine the firestorm if such things were done to Christians or Jews.

Posted in religion, totalitarianism, TSA | Comments Off

Cointelpro Redux: police infiltration of Occupy/Updated

Posted by Charles II on February 28, 2012

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, truthout:

As Part II of this discussion will show, infiltration is the norm in political movements in the United States. Occupy has many opponents likely to infiltrate to divide and destroy it beyond the usual law enforcement apparatus. Others include the corporations whose rule Occupy seeks to end, conservative right wing groups allied with corporate interests and other members of the power structure including non-profit organizations allied with either corporate-funded political party, especially the Democratic Party which would like Occupy to be their Tea Party rather than an independent movement critical of both parties.

On the very first day of the Occupation of Wall Street, we saw infiltration by the police. We were leaving Zuccotti Park and were stopped in traffic by the rear of the park. We saw an unmarked van open, in the front seat were two uniformed police and out of the back came two men dressed as occupiers wearing backpacks, sweatshirts, and jeans. They walked into Zuccotti Park and became part of the crowd.

If it were a matter of police undercover agents simply coming to observe public events, that might be tolerable. But they are engaged in provoking criminality, in photographing or creating files on protesters engaged in lawful activity, and misdirecting the movement. The first is itself a crime. The second and third are the tactics of totalitarian regimes. The consequence is that the US is much less free than most industrialized nations in terms of tolerating dissent and protest. The majority of citizens are afraid of engaging in street demonstrations.

This is not healthy. The end result is likely to be an explosion, when things go so wrong that people overcome their fear, as happened in Egypt. The alternative is even worse: decline, with no bottom.
________________
Update: Another Wikileak, not from the Stratfor file, shows that the Department of Homeland Security has opened a file on Occupy. While it’s based on open source reporting, it’s unsettling to have the Feds’ attention on a largely peaceful domestic protest movement. Kevin Gosztola has a summary here.

Posted in civil rights, Occupy movement, totalitarianism | 1 Comment »

State Dept: It’s a constitutional succession if the police/military use machine guns/updated with magic asterisk

Posted by Charles II on February 9, 2012

When in doubt:

The bizarre hypocrisy of the State Department in the Honduras coup, in which the machine gunning of the presidential palace in the early hours of the morning, and the exile of the elected president was deemed not to be a military coup has now been amplified by its strange response to the ouster of Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed is best known for holding a Cabinet meeting underwater to illustrate the plight of the Maldives, which will be drowned by global warming, with no reprieve possible. Reuters:

Nasheed’s order to the military to arrest a judge, whom he accused of blocking multi-million dollar corruption cases against members of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government, set off three weeks of opposition protests that peaked with Tuesday’s police revolt.

Opposition parties found common ground against Nasheed amid the constitutional crisis and protests, and had begun adopting hardline rhetoric to criticise his Islamic credentials. The country is wholly Sunni Muslim.

In the end, the military marched him into his own office to order his own resignation, a close aide told Reuters in the first witness account of Nasheed’s exit.

And more Reuters:

Earlier on Thursday, police commissioner Riyaz told reporters that 18 police stations and two courts on other atolls including the second-largest population centre, Addu, had been burned or attacked by Nasheed supporters the day before.

Nasheed called the violence “spontaneous”.

The unrest has taken place far from areas frequented by tourists, who usually land at an airport on an island near Male and go directly to the various resorts in the archipelago by speed boat or seaplane.

So, here’s your State Department:

QUESTION: Maldives. Yesterday, you discussed the situation there and appeared to sort of accept the story that the president stood aside and the vice president is taking over and that they’re going to have a government involving the opposition ahead of elections. But now, the former president Nasheed is saying that he was forced out at gunpoint and that it’s making it sound as though it’s essentially a military coup there. I’m wondering if you have any further information on communications with them, what your assessment is of the situation.

(Click for paydirt)
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in State Department, totalitarianism | 2 Comments »

 
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