Category Archives: Privacy

The CIA Then and Now: Old Wine in New Bottles, by Edward Curtin

Only those of strong constitution should delve into the sordid history of the CIA. For those so constituted, this article by Edward Curtin is a gem. From Curtin at edwardcurtin.com:

“And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died”

– Don McLean, “American Pie”

The Nazis had a name for their propaganda and mind-control operations: weltanschauungskrieg – “world view warfare.”  As good students, they had learned many tricks of the trade from their American teachers, including Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who had honed his propagandistic skills for the United States during World War I and had subsequently started the public relations industry in New York City, an industry whose raison d’ȇtre from the start was to serve the interests of the elites in manipulating the public mind.

In 1941, U.S. Intelligence translated weltanschauungskrieg as “psychological warfare,” a phrase that fails to grasp the full dimensions of the growing power and penetration of U.S. propaganda, then and now.  Of course, the American propaganda apparatus was just then getting started on an enterprise that has become the epitome of successful world view warfare programs, a colossal beast whose tentacles have spread to every corner of the globe and whose fabrications have nestled deep within the psyches of many hundreds of millions of Americans and people around the world.  And true to form in this circle game of friends helping friends, this propaganda program was ably assisted after WW II by all the Nazis secreted into the U.S. (“Operation Paperclip”) by Allen Dulles and his henchmen in the OSS and then the CIA to make sure the U.S. had operatives to carry on the Nazi legacy (see David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, The CIA, and The Rise of America’s Secret Government, an extraordinary book that will make your skin crawl with disgust).

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Is Big Tech Merging With Big Brother? Kind of Looks Like It? by David Samuels

Between them, Big Tech and the government could dish up surveillance Orwell couldn’t dream of. From David Samuels at wired.com:

A FRIEND OF mine, who runs a large television production company in the car-mad city of Los Angeles, recently noticed that his intern, an aspiring filmmaker from the People’s Republic of China, was walking to work.

WHEN HE OFFERED to arrange a swifter mode of transportation, she declined. When he asked why, she explained that she “needed the steps” on her Fitbit to sign in to her social media accounts. If she fell below the right number of steps, it would lower her health and fitness rating, which is part of her social rating, which is monitored by the government. A low social rating could prevent her from working or traveling abroad.

China’s social rating system, which was announced by the ruling Communist Party in 2014, will soon be a fact of lifefor many more Chinese.

By 2020, if the Party’s plan holds, every footstep, keystroke, like, dislike, social media contact, and posting tracked by the state will affect one’s social rating.

Personal “creditworthiness” or “trustworthiness” points will be used to reward and punish individuals and companies by granting or denying them access to public services like health care, travel, and employment, according to a plan released last year by the municipal government of Beijing. High-scoring individuals will find themselves in a “green channel,” where they can more easily access social opportunities, while those who take actions that are disapproved of by the state will be “unable to move a step.”

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Uncle Sam Wants Your DNA: The FBI’s Diabolical Plan to Create a Nation of Suspects, by John Whitehead

The government wants your DNA and they’re going to get it whether you want them to have it or not. From John W. Whitehead at rutherford.org:

“As more and more data flows from your body and brain to the smart machines via the biometric sensors, it will become easy for corporations and government agencies to know you, manipulate you, and make decisions on your behalf. Even more importantly, they could decipher the deep mechanisms of all bodies and brains, and thereby gain the power to engineer life. If we want to prevent a small elite from monopolising such godlike powers, and if we want to prevent humankind from splitting into biological castes, the key question is: who owns the data? Does the data about my DNA, my brain and my life belong to me, to the government, to a corporation, or to the human collective?”―Professor Yuval Noah Harari

Uncle Sam wants you.

Correction: Uncle Sam wants your DNA.

Actually, if the government gets its hands on your DNA, they as good as have you in their clutches.

Get ready, folks, because the government— helped along by Congress (which adopted legislation allowing police to collect and test DNA immediately following arrests), President Trump (who signed the Rapid DNA Act into law), the courts (which have ruled that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime), and local police agencies (which are chomping at the bit to acquire this new crime-fighting gadget)—is embarking on a diabolical campaign to create a nation of suspects predicated on a massive national DNA database.

As the New York Times reports:

“The science-fiction future, in which police can swiftly identify robbers and murderers from discarded soda cans and cigarette butts, has arrived. In 2017, President Trump signed into law the Rapid DNA Act, which, starting this year, will enable approved police booking stations in several states to connect their Rapid DNA machines to Codis, the national DNA database. Genetic fingerprinting is set to become as routine as the old-fashioned kind.

Referred to as “magic boxes,” these Rapid DNA machines—portable, about the size of a desktop printer, highly unregulated, far from fool-proof, and so fast that they can produce DNA profiles in less than two hours—allow police to go on fishing expeditions for any hint of possible misconduct using DNA samples.

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Exclusive: They Spy with Their Little Eye, by Suzie Dawson

New Zealand is basically a branch office of US intelligence. From Suzie Dawson at consortiumnews.com:

The Five Eyes, a part of what the NSA calls internally its “global network,” have their dirty fingerprints all over the latest spying scandal engulfing New Zealand, writes exiled Kiwi journalist and activist Suzie Dawson.

NZ Spy Scandal:  Elephants In The Room;
US Used NZ Spies to Spy on Third Countries,
Including France; US Army Ready for Unrest

I’ve spent six years alternately begging major NZ journalists to investigate state-sponsored spying on activists including me, and, out of sheer necessity, reporting extensively on it myself from within the vacuum created by their inaction. So it is somewhat bemusing to now observe the belated unfolding of what ex-Member of Parliament and Greenpeace NZ Executive Director Russel Norman is describing as New Zealand’s “Watergate moment.”

In the wake of the bombshell release of a State Services Commission report into the affair, Norman wrote: “My key takeaway is that under the previous government, no one was safe from being spied on if they disagreed with government policy.”

This is a remarkable statement from Norman, who once sat on the very government committee tasked with oversight of New Zealand’s intelligence agencies. The futility of that lofty position was reflected in my 2014 piece “Glenn Greenwald and the Irrelevance of Electoral Politics“ which quoted Greenwald, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks, saying of Norman:

“You had the Green Party leader here in New Zealand say in an interview that I watched that he was on the committee that oversees the GCSB [ Government Communications Security Bureau – NZ’s electronic spying agency] and yet he learned far more about what the agency does by reading our stories than he did in briefings. They really have insulated themselves from the political process and have a lot of tools to ensure that they continue to grow and their power is never questioned.”

The sands are shifting: Over a dozen government agencies including the New Zealand Police are revealed to have been engaging private intelligence firms such as the notorious Thompson and Clark Investigations Limited to spy on New Zealand citizens engaged in issue-based democratic dissent, activism in general, or who were deemed to present an economic or political ‘risk’ to the bureaucracy or the private sector in New Zealand.

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The “Revenue Opportunity” Behind the Wheel, by Eric Peters

When you buy a new car, you become both a revenue and a surveillance opportunity. From Eric Peters at theburningplatform.com:

There is a saying that goes, if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. But what if you’re paying for it – and you’re still the product?

Welcome to your next new car – previewed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas earlier this month – in which you’ll be surrounded by new technology designed to “monetize” everything from your musical preferences (it knows which stations you like) to where you like to go (it keeps track of where and when) and what you like to eat.

Perhaps even what you look at as you drive.

The cameras so many new cars come with already will soon be pointed at you. You’ll be surrounded sensors, too – in the seats, in the dash – anywhere they can be put where dataabout you can be mined.

That data used to construct a pastiche of your inclinations, which will then be sold to a company interested in trying to sell you something based on that knowledge of your inclinations.

And the insurance mafia is interested as well. Have you been buckling up? Accelerating – or braking – “aggressively”? It’s no longer just between the two of you – you and your car.

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State Secrets and the National-Security State, by Jacob G. Hornberger

National-security states, also called authoritarian or, if sufficiently repressive, totalitarian states, always have to make it a criminal offense to reveal their secrets and ruthlessly persecute those who violate those laws. From Jacob G. Hornberger at fff.org:

Inadvertently released federal documents reveal that U.S. officials have apparently secured a secret indictment against Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks who released secret information about the internal workings of the U.S. national-security establishment. In any nation whose government is founded on the concept of a national-security state, that is a cardinal sin, one akin to treason and meriting severe punishment.

Mind you, Assange isn’t being charged with lying or releasing false or fraudulent information about the U.S. national-security state. Everyone concedes that the WikiLeaks information was authentic. His “crime” was in disclosing to people the wrongdoing of the national-security establishment. No one is supposed to do that, even if the information is true and correct.

It’s the same with Edward Snowden, the American contractor with the CIA and the NSA who is now relegated to living in Russia. If Snowden returns home, he faces federal criminal prosecution, conviction, and incarceration for disclosing secrets of the U.S. national-security establishment. Again, his “crime” is disclosing the truth about the internal workings of the national-security establishment, not disseminating false information.

Such secrecy and the severe punishment for people who disclose the secrets to the public were among the things that came with the conversion of the federal government to a national-security state.

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Beware the Emergency State: Imperial, Unaccountable and Unconstitutional, by John W. Whitehead

We’ve sacrificied our freedoms for an alleged safety that’s actually made the world a much more dangerous place. From John W. Whitehead at rutherford.org:

“For seven decades we have been yielding our most basic liberties to a secretive, unaccountable emergency state – a vast but increasingly misdirected complex of national security institutions, reflexes, and beliefs that so define our present world that we forget that there was ever a different America. … Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have given way to permanent crisis management: to policing the planet and fighting preventative wars of ideological containment, usually on terrain chosen by, and favorable to, our enemies. Limited government and constitutional accountability have been shouldered aside by the kind of imperial presidency our constitutional system was explicitly designed to prevent.”— David C. Unger, The Emergency State: America’s Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs

It’s all happening according to schedule.

The civil unrest, the national emergencies, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters,” the government’s reliance on the armed forces to solve domestic political and social problems, the implicit declaration of martial law packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation’s security…

The government has been planning and preparing for such a crisis for years now.

No matter that this crisis is of the government’s own making.

To those for whom power and profit are everything, the end always justifies the means.

This latest brouhaha over President Trump’s threat to declare a national emergency in order to build a border wall is more manufactured political theater, a Trojan Horse intended to camouflage the real threat to our freedoms: yet another expansion of presidential power exposing us to constitutional peril.

This is not about illegal immigration or porous borders or who will pay to build that wall.

This is about unadulterated power and the rise of an “emergency state” that justifies all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security.

The seeds of this present madness were sown more than a decade ago when George W. Bush stealthily issued two presidential directives that granted the president the power to unilaterally declare a national emergency, which is loosely defined as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.

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