The Threat

Submitted: Dec 15, 2013
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

   

A dozen years ago, we were watching hopelessly after 9/11 as vendors hawked equipment to protect New Yorkers again gas attacks and as it became clear that the Bush Regime had blown away any sympathy the rest of the world had for the United States in the immediate aftermath. The drums and the lies of war were busy turning sorrow into fear and hatred. Here in this county, two murdered men were found in a canal; they had worn turbans after all.

 

 

On and on it went into the longest war in US history. Huge industries in security, especially in the technology of security, have been built on this undeclared, perpetual war that evidently will go on until the last act of defiance against US global domination is silenced.

Billions are being made, but security corporations are greedy for even more profits from government contracts. So, government workers are encouraged to spy on their fellow workers. More enemies are created. More and improved spying technology will be required to guard against The Threat … The Threat … The Threat.

When you think about a threat, it’s kind of like a financial derivative. If a consortium of security corporations can keep and augment the threat to national security, it will pay off year after year … after year … after year. You can go to the bank with it.

The only known antidote to such a destructive cycle of waste, fraud and profiteering is whistleblowing, which would include public exposure of the terrible social damage done when more and more and more public funds are sucked into the military/industrial/spyware complex, so much of which is produced off-shore anyway.

What nation can take this kind of economic hollowing-out, until the last cry of defiance against its domination of the globe?--blj

 

 

 

 

 

 

7-10-13

Common Dreams

"Stasi-Like": Obama's Program to Thwart Unwanted Leaks Not Only Creepy, It Won't Work

Having government co-workers spy on one another is damaging and counter-productive, say critics

- Jon Queally, staff writer

 

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/07/10

What's worse than a government program that "creates a culture of intimidation," "represses creative thinking," and acts to subvert the protections offered by the First and Fourth Amendments of the constitution?

Well, according to the growing number of critics of a White House program that asks government workers to spy on their colleagues, one that does all those things while also damaging the institutions the program is designed to protect. Namely, the government itself and the democratic principles which uphold it.

"...current and former U.S. officials and experts ... ridiculed as overly zealous and simplistic the idea of using reports of suspicious behavior to predict potential insider threats." -McClatchy

Following up on their groundbreaking report that exposed an internal Obama administration program designed to thwart would-be leakers by having government employees keep tabs on their co-workers, McClatchy reporters have now published a follow-up which shows that the plan, codenamedInsider Threat, is not only "creepy" and misguided but not "even likely to work."

The existence of the Insider Threat program was first revealed by the news outlet last month and came amid the growing controversy caused by the revelations generated by leaked NSA documents that gave a detailed look at the mass surveillance being conducted on US citizens and people all over the world by the US intelligence agency.

In the debate that followed, many critics of the Obama administration pointed out that their pursuit of whistleblowers who leak, or discuss with reporters, information that reflects poorly on the US government's intelligence apparatus has been the most aggressive in modern history.

In addition to its ongoing determination to bring recent NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden back to the US for prosecution for his disclosures, the Insider Threat program is seen as the icing on the cake of this trend.

As McClatchy reports:

In an initiative aimed at rooting out future leakers and other security violators, President Barack Obama has ordered federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on behavioral profiling techniques that are not scientifically proven to work, according to experts and government documents.

The techniques are a key pillar of the Insider Threat Program, an unprecedented government-wide crackdown under which millions of federal bureaucrats and contractors must watch out for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers. Those who fail to report them could face penalties, including criminal charges.

Obama mandated the program in an October 2011 executive order after Army Pfc. Bradley Manning downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from a classified computer network and gave them to WikiLeaks, the anti-government secrecy group. The order covers virtually every federal department and agency, including the Peace Corps, the Department of Education and others not directly involved in national security.

Critics of the program immediately condemned it, saying Obama's reaction to the existence of whistleblowers has done more harm to liberty than any of the revelations made public by the government whistleblowers.

As Digby, a commentator on national affairs, wrote on her blog following McClatchy'soriginal story on Insider Threat:

This government paranoia and informant culture is about as corrosive to the idea of freedom as it gets. The workplace is already rife with petty jealousies, and singular ambition--- it's a human organization after all. Adding in this sort of incentive structure is pretty much setting up a system for intimidation and abuse.

And, as with all informant systems, especially ones that "profile" for certain behaviors deemed to be a threat to the state, only the most conformist will thrive. It's a recipe for disaster if one is looking for any kind of dynamic, creative thinking. Clearly, that is the last these creepy bureaucrats want.

This is the direct result of a culture of secrecy that seems to be pervading the federal government under president Obama. He is not the first president to expand the national security state , nor is he responsible for the bipartisan consensus on national security or the ongoing influence of the Military Industrial Complex. This, however, is different. And he should be individually held to account for this policy.

Beyond the widely shared criticism of the Obama program on these grounds, whatMcClatchy's latest reporting reveals is that Insider Threat, according to experts, won't even give the government its desired results. They report:

...current and former U.S. officials and experts worry that Obama’s Insider Threat Program could lead to false or retaliatory accusations across the entire government, in part because security officials are granted access to information outside their usual purview.

These current and former U.S. officials and experts also ridiculed as overly zealous and simplistic the idea of using reports of suspicious behavior to predict potential insider threats. It takes years for professional spy-hunters to learn their craft, and relying on the observations of inexperienced people could lead to baseless and discriminatory investigations, they said.

“Anyone is an amateur looking at behavior here,” said Thomas Fingar, a former State Department intelligence chief who chaired the National Intelligence Council, which prepares top-secret intelligence analyses for the president, from 2005 to 2008.

Co-workers, Fingar said, should “be attentive” to colleagues’ personal problems in order to refer them to counseling, not to report them as potential security violators. “It’s simply because they are colleagues, fellow human beings,” he said.

Eric Feldman, a former inspector general of the National Reconnaissance Office, the super-secret agency that oversees U.S. spy satellites, expressed concern that relying on workers to report colleagues’ suspicious behaviors to security officials could create “a repressive kind of culture.”

“The answer to it is not to have a Stasi-like response,” said Feldman, referring to the feared secret police of communist East Germany. “You’ve removed that firewall between employees seeking help and the threat that any employee who seeks help could be immediately retaliated against by this insider threat office.”

 

 

12-11-13

Common Dreams

Whistleblowers to US Intelligence Agents: 'Follow Your Conscience'

Ellsberg, Drake, Radack, McGovern among others who publish open letter to those whose jobs are affront to democracy

- Lauren McCauley, staff write

 

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/11-2

 

In a plea made directly to the thousands of civil servants whose daily occupation feeds the ever-growing spy state, a group of former whistleblowers published an open letterWednesday in the Guardian urging those individuals to join Edward Snowden and the other brave truth-tellers "to follow your conscience and let us know what's being done in our names."

 

 “Blowing the whistle on powerful factions is not a fun thing to do, but despite the poor track record of western media, whistleblowing remains the last avenue for truth, balanced debate and upholding democracy," writes the group, which includes Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, former NSA executive Thomas Drake, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern among others.

"Edward Snowden just showed you what one person can do," they continue. "But Snowden shouldn't have to stand alone, and his revelations shouldn't be the only ones."

In an open call to those whose days are spent "hidden away" in government offices and intelligence agencies spying, lying to the public and "destroying everything we as a society pretend to care about," the group declares: "You can be part of the solution."

The letter comes at the end of a year when whistleblowers in the United States made great waves and great sacrifice. Edward Snowden remains trapped in Russia facing charges under the Espionage Act after his disclosures revealed the full extent of the American and British surveillance mechanisms. In August, Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison after being charged with aiding the enemy for exposing the brutality and illegality of the American military. And at the beginning of the year, former CIA official John Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months for exposing the practice of waterboarding to journalists.

Despite promises of protection, the Obama administration has overseen more prosecutions of whistleblowers than all other presidents combined and, along with the 'Insider Threat'peer spying program, has established a culture of threats and intimidation that extends throughout government agencies.

In the face of these threats, the former whistleblowers promise "strength in numbers." They write, "You won't be the first – nor the last – to follow your conscience and let us know what's being done in our names. Truth is coming – it can't be stopped. [...] It's in your hands to be on the right side of history and accelerate the process."

The complete text of the letter is below:

At least since the aftermath of September 2001, western governments and intelligence agencies have been hard at work expanding the scope of their own power, while eroding privacy, civil liberties and public control of policy. What used to be viewed as paranoid, Orwellian, tin-foil hat fantasies turned out post-Snowden, to be not even the whole story.

What's really remarkable is that we've been warned for years that these things were going on: wholesale surveillance of entire populations, militarization of the internet, the end of privacy. All is done in the name of "national security", which has more or less become a chant to fence off debate and make sure governments aren't held to account – that they can't be held to account – because everything is being done in the dark. Secret laws, secret interpretations of secret laws by secret courts and no effective parliamentary oversight whatsoever.

By and large the media have paid scant attention to this, even as more and more courageous, principled whistleblowers stepped forward. The unprecedented persecution of truth-tellers, initiated by the Bush administration and severely accelerated by the Obama administration, has been mostly ignored, while record numbers of well-meaning people are charged with serious felonies simply for letting their fellow citizens know what's going on.

It's one of the bitter ironies of our time that while John Kiriakou (ex-CIA) is in prison for blowing the whistle on US torture, the torturers and their enablers walk free.

Likewise WikiLeaks-source Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning was charged with – amongst other serious crimes – aiding the enemy (read: the public). Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison while the people who planned the illegal and disastrous war on Iraq in 2003 are still treated as dignitaries.

Numerous ex-NSA officials have come forward in the past decade, disclosing massive fraud, vast illegalities and abuse of power in said agency, including Thomas Drake, William Binney and Kirk Wiebe. The response was 100% persecution and 0% accountability by both the NSA and the rest of government. Blowing the whistle on powerful factions is not a fun thing to do, but despite the poor track record of western media, whistleblowing remains the last avenue for truth, balanced debate and upholding democracy – that fragile construct which Winston Churchill is quoted as calling "the worst form of government, except all the others".

Since the summer of 2013, the public has witnessed a shift in debate over these matters. The reason is that one courageous person: Edward Snowden. He not only blew the whistle on the litany of government abuses but made sure to supply an avalanche of supporting documents to a few trustworthy journalists. The echoes of his actions are still heard around the world – and there are still many revelations to come.

For every Daniel Ellsberg, Drake, Binney, Katharine Gun, Manning or Snowden, there are thousands of civil servants who go by their daily job of spying on everybody and feeding cooked or even made-up information to the public and parliament, destroying everything we as a society pretend to care about.
Some of them may feel favourable towards what they're doing, but many of them are able to hear their inner Jiminy Cricket over the voices of their leaders and crooked politicians – and of the people whose intimate communication they're tapping.

Hidden away in offices of various government departments, intelligence agencies, police forces and armed forces are dozens and dozens of people who are very much upset by what our societies are turning into: at the very least, turnkey tyrannies.

One of them is you.

You're thinking:

● Undermining democracy and eroding civil liberties isn't put explicitly in your job contract.

● You grew up in a democratic society and want to keep it that way

● You were taught to respect ordinary people's right to live a life in privacy

● You don't really want a system of institutionalized strategic surveillance that would make the dreaded Stasi green with envy – do you?

Still, why bother? What can one person do? Well, Edward Snowden just showed you, what one person can do. He stands out as a whistleblower both because of the severity of the crimes and misconduct that he is divulging to the public – and the sheer amount of evidence he has presented us with so far – more is coming. But Snowden shouldn't have to stand alone, and his revelations shouldn't be the only ones.

You can be part of the solution; provide trustworthy journalists – either from old media (like this newspaper) or from new media (such as WikiLeaks) with documents that prove what illegal, immoral, wasteful activities are going on where you work.

There IS strength in numbers. You won't be the first – nor the last – to follow your conscience and let us know what's being done in our names. Truth is coming – it can't be stopped. Crooked politicians will be held accountable. It's in your hands to be on the right side of history and accelerate the process.

Courage is contagious.

Signed by:

Peter Kofod, ex-Human Shield in Iraq (Denmark)

Thomas Drake, whistleblower, former senior executive of the NSA (US)

Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblower, former US military analyst (US)

Katharine Gun, whistleblower, former GCHQ (UK)

Jesselyn Radack, whistleblower, former Department of Justice (US)

Ray McGovern, former senior CIA analyst (US)

Coleen Rowley, whistleblower, former FBI agent (US)

 

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