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Archive for the ‘totalitarianism’ Category

Why the US can’t stop ISIS

Posted by Charles II on July 25, 2015

George Joseph, The Intercept, via bobswern at DK:

Exclusive: Feds Regularly Monitored Black Lives Matter Since Ferguson

July 24 2015, 12:50 p.m.

The Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement since anti-police protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri last summer, according to hundreds of documents obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The documents, released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Operations Coordination, indicate that the department frequently collects information, including location data, on Black Lives Matter activities from public social media accounts, including on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine, even for events expected to be peaceful. The reports confirm social media surveillance of the protest movement and ostensibly related events in the cities of Ferguson, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and New York.

They also show the department watching over gatherings that seem benign and even mundane. For example, DHS circulated information on a nationwide series of silent vigils and a DHS-funded agency planned to monitor a funk music parade and a walk to end breast cancer in the nation’s capital.

When a government has to expend this much effort on repressing dissent by its citizens, it is unable to confront external threats. This is why dictatorships fail.

Posted in racism, totalitarianism | 2 Comments »

National Security Apparatus: The law is for you to obey, not for us to obey

Posted by Charles II on May 28, 2015

From Democracy Now:

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, ICWatch is a database of more than 27,000 profiles of people associated with the U.S. intelligence community or intelligence industry, so that includes people who work for government and people who work for private industry. It was created by a little journalism startup … called Transparency Toolkit. … This information was all originally … from LinkedIn, so these are CVs of people involved in various intelligence activities. By searching LinkedIn for key wor[d]s… say, Joint Priority Effects List, the assassination program in Afghanistan, these were scraped out and then linked together so you can easily see, for example, who claims that they had worked at the National Security Agency at some stage or on various code-worded projects that the National Security Agency uses.

JULIAN ASSANGE: [They faced death threats for] Indexing what was already public. An example of one of those death threats, from Washington, D.C., from a counterintelligence operative, who was also a former marine, saying that he would hunt them down and kill them no matter where they were in the world, and there’s no place in the world that they can hide.

JULIAN ASSANGE: … Now, I think this—it actually perfectly explains why the U.S. intelligence community must itself be scrutinized. What do we have in that statement? Murderous criminal arrogance…—and I should add one further point: and deeply incompetent […for a] a counterintelligence person […to] they themselves put that information on LinkedIn. They themselves are irritated about their own incompetence, to the degree where they get threatening to kill people involved with a journalism project.

That’s right: breach security by posting your claim to be a code-word program professional assassin onto LinkedIn and then get angry because someone notices. Please don’t give these people actual guns. They might hurt themselves.

And (ibid) in addition, a larger institutional hypocrisy, which could amount to a crime:

JULIAN ASSANGE:…So, the U.S. has kind of made a bit of a legal—the Pentagon has made a bit of a legal ruse in terms of how it describes these assassination lists. They always say it’s a kill/capture list. And this is to create some kind of ambiguity, which is you go in to capture them, but they resist, and then they’re killed. But, in fact…there’s no actual attempt to capture. And here we have evidence, confessions even… bragging on their CV about how they were involved in these programs to assassinate people.

So, when it comes down to the USG, they don’t have to obey the law. And this is nowhere more evident than in the persecution of Assange:

JULIAN ASSANGE:…There are some 500 information requests from the media and us, that have been blocked by the U.S. government, into what has been happening with WikiLeaks. And they’ve been blocked under the excuse that to release such information would be to help us resist the prosecution, and that they want to use that in the prosecution, and therefore they can’t release it to anyone. Now, the FBI has admitted that they have more than 42,135 pages just in the FBI file. There’s the DOJ file. There’s the grand jury file. And they’re not going to release a single sentence, not a single paragraph.

EPIC lost that case to get those documents, because the court accepted that to release any information about the WikiLeaks prosecution would affect the WikiLeaks prosecution, that we could use this to defend ourselves. And the argument used is quite incredible…. It is that …the court doesn’t have a right to, itself, make this determination [about what should be released and what restricted]

the government argues, “The court does not have a right to make this assessment. This is a question of a national security fact. Either it is a fact that the information held by the DOJ and held by the FBI would—about WikiLeaks, would affect national security or not. And it is the government that is best placed to determine this fact, not the court.” And so, in the judgment, the judge states that it is necessary to show, quote, “appropriate deference to the executive on matters of national security,” and therefore she is simply going to defer to the government’s claim without looking at the material at all.

If the Tea Party gave an actual d–n about overweening Executive actions, the Wikileaks case would be a central rallying point. The excuse of national security is being used to gut the power of the judiciary to oversee the Executive’s administration of the laws, pushing us quite close–since Congress is so ineffectual–to being a totalitarian state.

But just in case we didn’t get the point that our government is not just completely above the law, but totally incompetent,

the U.S. picked up a statement, a supportive statement made in Moscow by President Evo Morales, and appears to have picked up our codeword for the actual operation [to smuggle Edward Snowden to Latin America], and put two and two together and made 22, and then pressured France—successfully pressured France, Portugal and Spain to close their airspace to President Evo Morales’s jet in its flight from Moscow to the Canary Islands for refueling and then back to Bolivia. And as a result, it was forced to land in Vienna. And then, once in Vienna, there was pressure to search the plane.

So, it’s really a quite extraordinary situation that reveals the true nature of the relationship between Western Europe and the United States and what it claims are its values of human rights and asylum and the rights to asylum and so, and respecting the rule of law, the Vienna Convention. Just a phone call from U.S. intelligence was enough to close the airspace to a booked presidential flight, which has immunity. And they got it wrong.

The United States is a very powerful country. It does not have to get its way in everything, or suppress every bit of adverse publicity, or force every world leader to heel. By trying to do so, it–by which I mean the cabal inside the national security apparatus that is committing these abuses– shows how dangerous the government–by which I mean that cabal– itself has become.

And, on top of that, see how completely ineffectual it is at actually stopping terrorism, guarding secrets, or persuading other nations to join with us. How ashamed this nation’s Founders would be at what their dream has become.

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

For God, Tsar/Plutocrat and Fatherland

Posted by Charles II on November 29, 2014

I watched the latter part of a 2007 documentary called For God, Tsar and Fatherland. It’s a tragic story of how people give up on democracy in favor of religiously-based ultranationalism at a drug and alcohol treatment center called Durakovo. They want a new Stalin, minus the atheism. Granted, it’s just one strand of ultranationalism, and its leader, Mikhail Fyodorovich Morozov, is hardly likely to be the next tsar.

And yet, how similar is what happens at Durakovo’s treatment center is to what goes on in the United States. Democracy–real democracy–is a very powerful idea. It is based on the concept that violence and injustice are based in the imbalance of power between people. By asserting the existence of basic human rights, we greatly diminish that imbalance. While the inequities that remain are enormous and growing, the fundamental logic of the democratic system is obvious. And yet, Americans increasingly have contempt for elected officials and do not vote. They reject science in favor of superstition. Academics and specialists are rejected in favor of demagogues. The Congress no longer tries to exercise its legitimate powers of limiting the Executive in war and overseeing the conduct of expenditures, but squanders its influence on hacking away at any remaining tendrils of liberty. The economic system is becoming so concentrated that many markets do not function properly. The economy is becoming the same sort of centralized system of planning that made the Soviet Union so inefficient. In short, the U.S. is becoming anti-democratic in just the same way that Russian ultra-nationalists are. We have started to give up on the promise of democracy.

And now, two articles from The Consortium add weight to these concerns. Maidhc Ó Cathail reports how the US government, a think tank funded by a Russian plutocratic rival of President Vladimir Putin, and a neoconservative successor to The Project for a New American Century called Foreign Policy Initiative, combined in a presentation attacking Russia titled “The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money.” Granting that there is a lot of delusional thinking in Russia, as documented by For God, Tsar and Fatherland, the real sense of unreality arises from how neoconservatives manufacture enemies out of thin air.

And, as Parry notes in a second article:

major news outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, continue to be little more than propaganda megaphones for the hawks in the State Department and the ever-influential neoconservatives.

For instance, on Wednesday, the Post’s neocon editors published a lead editorial aimed at both Putin and President Barack Obama with what you might call neocon trash-talking. In the Post’s print edition, the sneering headline was “The ‘invincible’ Mr. Putin. With no new pressure from the West, the Kremlin acts as if it has nothing to fear.” The online title was even more direct: “Prove to Mr. Putin that he is not ‘invincible.’”

There is a fusion between the US government and the billionaires that fund think tanks in a neoconservative movement that very much resembles the Russian ultranationalists. Throw in a the John Hagees of the “Christian” right, and you have a movement essentially identical to Morozov’s. Except for one thing. Morozov’s acolytes are at least correct in thinking that the West is against them. The United States has no excuse for turning all the world into enemies.

Posted in totalitarianism | 1 Comment »

The crazy aunts in the Ukrainian attic

Posted by Charles II on October 15, 2014

Robert Parry, Consortium News:

For months, the New York Times and other major U.S. news outlets have insisted that it’s just Russian propaganda to say that a significant neo-Nazi presence exists inside Ukraine, but thousands of these “non-existent” neo-Nazis battled police on Tuesday outside the parliament building in Kiev demanding recognition of their Hitler-collaborating forebears.

The parliament, aware of the obvious public relations fiasco that would follow if it bowed to far-right demands to honor members of the Nazi-affiliated Ukrainian Insurgent Army (or UIA), defeated the proposal. That touched off riots by an estimated 8,000 protesters led by Ukraine’s right-wing Svoboda party and the Right Sektor.

So, is the Kiev government going to last, or will it be overthrown as the Yanukovych government was overthrown?

Posted in totalitarianism | Tagged: | Comments Off on The crazy aunts in the Ukrainian attic

Kiev’s neo-Nazis

Posted by Charles II on September 10, 2014

Shaun Walker of The Guardian had an interesting story:

But there is an increasing worry that while the Azov and other volunteer battalions might be Ukraine’s most potent and reliable force on the battlefield against the separatists, they also pose the most serious threat to the Ukrainian government, and perhaps even the state, when the conflict in the east is over. The Azov causes particular concern due to the far right, even neo-Nazi, leanings of many of its members.

Dmitry claimed not to be a Nazi, but waxed lyrical about Adolf Hitler as a military leader, and believes the Holocaust never happened. Not everyone in the Azov battalion thinks like Dmitry, but after speaking with dozens of its fighters and embedding on several missions during the past week in and around the strategic port city of Mariupol, the Guardian found many of them to have disturbing political views, and almost all to be intent on “bringing the fight to Kiev” when the war in the east is over.

The battalion’s symbol is reminiscent of the Nazi Wolfsangel, though the battalion claims it is in fact meant to be the letters N and I crossed over each other, standing for “national idea”. Many of its members have links with neo-Nazi groups, and even those who laughed off the idea that they are neo-Nazis did not give the most convincing denials.

Indeed, much of what Azov members say about race and nationalism is strikingly similar to the views of the more radical Russian nationalists fighting with the separatist side.

The Ukrainian armed forces are “an army of lions led by a sheep”, said Dmitry, and there is only so long that dynamic can continue. With so many armed, battle-hardened and angry young men coming back from the front, there is a danger that the rolling of heads could be more than a metaphor. Dmitry said he believes that Ukraine needs “a strong dictator to come to power who could shed plenty of blood but unite the nation in the process”.

Many in the Azov battalion [and other batallions] with whom the Guardian spoke shared this view

Anti-Semitism and strongman worship are so common in parts of the world that one hesitates to call them abnormal. They are part of the air that people breathe. But the part about the Azov fighters and others like them might turn on the Poroshenko government should give Washington pause. It’s crazy that the US has sided with Kiev given its use of neo-Nazi elements.

Posted in Russia, totalitarianism, Ukraine | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Kiev’s neo-Nazis

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 »

 
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