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Forum Post: Privacy as the New Free-Trade Zone of Corporate Exploitation

Posted 3 years ago on Feb. 25, 2014, 2:48 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Privacy as the New Free-Trade Zone of Corporate Exploitation

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 10:16 By Fred Guerin, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/22080-privacy-as-the-new-free-trade-zone-of-corporate-exploitation

Global surveillance is not only an unnecessary, unconstitutional infringement on our private lives, a violation of the boundaries between the private and the public, but also the precondition for totalitarian control, writes Fred Guerin.

Imagine the digital world as something like a grand apartment complex. Even though dwellers live in separate apartments, they are all connected because they all live in the same building. Now imagine that there existed an authorized government that employed countless thousands of individuals called the TESO (Thought Enforcement and Surveillance Officers) who were given a master key and instructed to enter every apartment on a daily basis. Upon accessing each apartment, the TESO would isolate and restrain or handcuff the individual apartment dweller and proceed to thoroughly search through every room and closet, inspect every drawer and cupboard, read every note, diary or document. They would do this not because the apartment dwellers were suspected of committing a crime, or because they were deemed to pose a threat to the stability of the state or society. The sole purpose of this thoroughgoing invasion into private life would be to create a PCP or pre-crime-profile. This profile would be constantly updated and preserved for easy access at a moment's notice should any future aberrant or unorthodox behavior be displayed by anyone in the apartment.

This analogy loosely drawn from George Orwell's 1984 and Philip K. Dick's Minority Report is disturbing precisely because it graphically illustrates how profoundly unethical, unconstitutional and illegal it would be to impose a regime of intrusive unwarranted surveillance for the purpose of gathering intelligence - not defense, counterterrorist or counterespionage intelligence, but human intelligence, as such.

Now it seems obvious that we should feel just as violated, just as vulnerable and just as outraged when we are being surveilled online as we would if the police came bursting through our door . . .

We can certainly draw distinctions between different kinds of human intelligence data - between physical or digital information, descriptive or visual data, and data about the structures that contain data (also referred to as metadata). However, more importantly, what we must take note of is not the differences between different kinds of data or intelligence, but the potential that we now have for digitally warehousing and cross-referencing many levels of data for future use (either benign or malevolent).

Now it seems obvious that we should feel just as violated, just as vulnerable and just as outraged when we are being surveilled online as we would if the police came bursting through our door to look around our house or apartment for no reason other than that they wanted to collect as much information on us as possible. That we are not similarly outraged about unethical and unconstitutional surveillance practices has a lot to do with the fact that many of these surveillance devices are woven into the fabric of our consumerist culture. We cheerfully line up for the chance to be the first to buy the latest iPhone; we readily give up personal and even intimate details about ourselves online, and we feel the urge to constantly text friends and relations regarding the trivial events of the day. In all of this, there is a certain willful ignorance of the fact that digital information is accessible to anyone, and it forms a fairly intimate picture of us over time.

However, our lack of moral outrage is not merely a function of the fact that surveillance devices are ubiquitous, fashionable or appeal to what has become an excessively narcissistic culture; it is also a consequence of a very secretive and gradually more elaborate surveillance industry that we really know very little about. The exemplar here is the five-eyes alliance that has developed over time between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the United States. In each of these countries, so-called democratically elected governments have autocratically and secretly given themselves a kind of invasive power that is typically reserved for despots and dictators who rule citizens in a police state.

Fortunately, the secretive nature of government surveillance programs is not as secret as it once was. Their collective cover has been blown by Edward Snowden and become widely known through the work of intrepid activist reporters Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. The global surveillance system has been uncovered for what it is: an unnecessary, unconstitutional infringement on the private lives of citizens. The outrage is only just beginning. However, if it has become clear that public consciousness has now been raised and questions are being asked by many citizens, academics and journalists as to why such a scenario should ever be considered normal or necessary, it is very unclear whether the governments involved have been shamed into any admission that what they are doing is inherently wrong or unwarranted. In fact, there is evidence to suggest something quite the contrary: that intrusive surveillance of the private lives of citizens will continue and, in fact, become more elaborate and sophisticated. For the foreseeable future, this sort of surveillance will be woven into a powerful and complex legal-corporate matrix that will guarantee our private lives will never again be private in the way they once were.

The global surveillance system has been uncovered for what it is: an unnecessary, unconstitutional infringement on the private lives of citizens.

One might be tempted to insist that the reason for this new emphasis on surveillance is a consequence of the devastating and unprecedented attack of September 11, 2001. Others might argue that it is because total surveillance technologies are possible in a way they have never before been. Both of these claims have some truth. But both are also symptomatic of a much more elemental cause that goes to the heart of where we have been heading for the last 60 or so years. This elemental cause reaches beyond mere technological advancement or terrorist threat to something much more primitive and destructive: an entrenched and ubiquitous corporate capitalist system of profit and exploitation. The latter is something that can be uncovered only by grasping the continuous and relentless demise of democratic public spaces, the conversion of citizens into consumers, the need to protect and enhance the profits of a very small minority and the complete colonization of the ecosystem and any human potential for creative, life-sustaining activity.

However, we may still want to ask here: What is the precise connection between human surveillance, the collection of different forms of data and metadata, and a system of corporate capitalism? Many have argued that the increasing push to collect private information or metadata is for the sake of our national security, and only secondarily, about commercial interests. However, this line of argument would be much more persuasive if the boundary between government and corporate interests were clear and unambiguous. It is not. In fact, as corporate capitalism becomes globalized, the distinction between government power and corporate power is all but erased.

Privacy in this view is the indispensible space of possibility where we develop and nurture intimate relations with family and loved ones, away from public scrutiny or the prying eyes of government institutions

Given this, it is not difficult to imagine that the surveillance infrastructure designed and built by powerful communications and tech industries, and implemented and enforced by way of government institutions and bureaucratic systems, would tend to serve the interests of the corporation first and foremost, with governments playing a parasitic or subsidiary role. To properly address the question of whether government or corporate interests are at the center, we need to first think about how to visualize or articulate the boundary between public and private.

Perhaps there was a time before the advance of intrusive technologies, when this boundary was easily identifiable and embraced as a necessary division between what is publicly known and shared and what is private and intimate. Privacy in this view is the indispensible space of possibility where we develop and nurture intimate relations with family and loved ones, away from public scrutiny or the prying eyes of government institutions. It is the place where we are encouraged to develop a unique sense of who we are without feeling the pressure to entirely conform to an imposed social, religious or cultural directive. It is a site of human freedom and indeterminacy, where we are still open to transformation and still grappling with who we have been, who we are and who we want to be. Paradoxically, privacy is also a prerequisite for reflecting upon what brings us together, on what distinguishes us, but also what we have in common. This private space of reflection and contemplation is where we begin to develop a sense of thinking from the perspective of another person or of a world outside, separate from us yet intimately and necessarily connected to us. It is the origin of what we might call a private-public moral consciousness.

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[-] 3 points by elf3 (3721) 3 years ago

LeoYo - Privacy as the New Free-Trade Zone of Corporate Exploitation - this is perhaps the greatest travesty of our time the blurring of the private and public domain where every i-phone has the potential to report you and every post the potential to convict you ... where your diary is in the public domain and where your family photos become the property of the corporate state. Though I know it goes far deeper into bone-chilling levels - the scope of this as technology progresses is frightening. For all of this I have only one question - Why does our Constitution not apply to emerging technology?

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

The constitution is a product of legislative individuals and their perceptions of need for change based upon the special interests they represent.


How TPP Would Harm You at the Drug Store and on the Internet

Friday, 28 February 2014 10:53 By Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/22172-how-tpp-would-harm-you-at-the-drug-store-and-on-the-internet

A law affecting content on the Internet that was rejected by Congress shows up in a trade agreement designed to bypass and override Congress. Small, innovative companies that manufacture low-cost, generic drugs find their products blocked.

Those are examples of what is in store based on provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is now being negotiated by the United States and 11 other nations, that have been leaked to the public. The leaks appear to show that provision after leaked provision will take power away from democracy and countries and hand it to the biggest corporations. No wonder these giant, monopolistic corporations want Congress to approve Fast Track before they – and We the People – get a chance to read the agreement.

Because of these leaks we know that the TPP has an intellectual property section that will override government rules that limit the power giant corporations can wield against smaller competitors and the general public. Intellectual property (IP) is a term that covers patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, industrial designs and similar ‘intangible assets.” (Click here for the IP chapter that was leaked to Wikileaks.)

The rigged process in which only giant corporate interests are represented at the talks of course produces results that are more favorable to those giant corporations than to their smaller, innovative competitors and regular people around the world. The rigged “fast track” process enables these interests to push the agreement through Congress before there is time to organize a public reaction.

TPP And Fast Track

TPP is a “trade” agreement that has little to do with trade and everything to do with giving the giant corporations the power to override what governments and their people want. The agreement follows the pattern of the trade agreements that have forced millions of jobs and tens of thousands of factories out of the United States, placed giant corporations in a dominant-power position that is threatening our democracy and sovereignty, and have dramatically accelerated the transfer of wealth from regular people to a few billionaires worldwide.

TPP is being negotiated in secret with consumer, environmental, labor, health, human rights and other “stakeholder’ groups excluded from the table. But the interests of the giant corporations are at the table, with the negotiators either already well-compensated by the corporate interests or in a position to be well-compensated later after leaving government (which many of them tend to do immediately after ending their role in trade negotiations).

To help push TPP through, the giant corporations are trying to get Congress to give up its constitutional responsibility to initiate and carefully consider the terms of trade agreements. The corporations are pushing for Congress to pass “fast track” trade promotion authority, which brings in a process where Congress gets a very limited amount of time after first seeing the agreement to evaluate it and then vote, limits how much they can debate it and prohibits them from amending it in any way. This gives the corporations the opportunity to set up a huge PR campaign to pressure Congress to pass it, before the public has time to organize a response – never mind even read the agreement.

Intellectual Property and Drug Prices

One example of the way the intellectual property provisions favor giant, multinational corporations over smaller, innovative corporations and regular people around the world is in pharmaceutical prices.

A company with a drug patent is granted a monopoly to sell the drug at any price they choose with no competition. Currently a drug might be patented for a limited number of years in different countries. When the patent runs out other companies are able to manufacture the drug and the competition means the drug will sell at a lower cost.

Leaked documents appear to show that TPP will extend patent terms for drugs. Countries signing the agreement will scrap their own IP rules and instead follow those in TPP. So giant drug companies will have the same patent in all countries, for a longer period, and the patent will prevent competition that lowers drug prices.

Currently smaller, innovative companies can produce “generic” drugs after patents run out. Because of competition these drugs can be very inexpensive. Walmart, for example, sells a month’s supply of many generic drugs for $4, while drugs still under patent protection can cost hundreds or even thousands. This is of particular concern to poor countries that will be under TPP rules.

Please read Expose The TPP‘s section The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Public Health, which begins:

The TPP would provide large pharmaceutical firms with new rights and powers to increase medicine prices and limit consumers’ access to cheaper generic drugs. This would include extensions of monopoly drug patents that would allow drug companies to raise prices for more medicines and even allow monopoly rights over surgical procedures. For people in the developing countries involved in TPP, these rules could be deadly – denying consumers access to HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and cancer drugs.

What You Can See, Do And Say On The Internet

Another area where the IP section of TPP could give corporations tremendous power is in deciding what regular people can see, do or say on the Internet. TPP will override our own rules, even imposing laws like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) that Congress have specifically rejected.

You might remember when many websites on the Internet “went dark” for 24 hours to protest the proposed SOPA and PIPA laws. According to the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s (EFF) SOPA/PIPA: Internet Blacklist Legislation,

The “Stop Online Piracy Act”/”E-PARASITE Act” (SOPA) and “The PROTECT IP Act” (PIPA) are the latest in a series of bills which would create a procedure for creating (and censoring) a blacklist of websites. These bills are updated versions of the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” (COICA), which was previously blocked in the Senate. Although the bills are ostensibly aimed at reaching foreign websites dedicated to providing illegal content, their provisions would allow for removal of enormous amounts of non-infringing content including political and other speech from the Web.

… Had these bills been passed five or ten years ago, even YouTube might not exist today — in other words, the collateral damage from this legislation would be enormous.

Larry Magid explained at the time, in What Are SOPA and PIPA And Why All The Fuss?

The bill would require sites to refrain from linking to any sites “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property.” It would also prevent companies from placing on the sites and block payment companies like Visa, Mastercard and Paypal from transmitting funds to the site. For more, see this blog post on Reddit.

The problem with this is that the entire site would be affected, not just that portion that is promoting the distribution of illegal material. It would be a bit like requiring the manager of a flea market to shut down the entire market because some of the merchants were selling counterfeit goods.

… Opponents say it would create an “internet blacklist.”

… There is also worry that SOPA and PIPA could be abused and lead to censorship for purposes other than intellectual property protection.

Congress decided to reject SOPA and PIPA. But the provisions of SOPA and PIPA are back, this time in the TPP, which would override what Congress wants.

Please read the EFF’s Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement page.

We’ve seen how this works too many times. The giant corporations promise jobs and prosperity to get their way, but then We the People end up with fewer jobs and a falling standard of living while a few billionaires and executives pocket the difference. Instead of letting the giant corporations push through yet another job-killing agreement that gives them even more wealth and power let’s take control of things and fix the agreements that have hurt us, our economy and our democracy. Fix NAFTA First!

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 3 years ago

they had no idea

public exposure means abuse and violence is exposed

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 3 years ago

Global surveillance is also the precondition for totalitarian control, writes Fred Guerin.

this is a lie

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

So why is it that many will insist on viewing the private sphere as an instrument or veil behind which nefarious individuals withdraw to engage in illegal, unethical or immoral activities? Perhaps it is partly a result of the consciousness-raising that took place in the 1960s and '70s and taught us that in unequal relations, the powerful will often use the veil of privacy to secure and expand exploitive or demeaning relations. However, we must ask whether the notion of a private sphere should be reduced to an instrument of deception. In other words, should not the private sphere be more properly and thoughtfully understood as a condition of possibility for the contemplative, and indeed for the possibility of thinking communally? Let us look again at Orwell.

In Orwell's 1984, it is thinking or reflecting on oneself or the state of the world, outside of the orthodox perspective of Ingsoc that is considered a crime - or to use Orwell's own term: a thoughtcrime. The thoughtpolice are constantly on the watch for any sort of unusual activity, expression of incredulity at party dogma, hesitation or nervous tic that might testify to unorthodox thinking. To be orthodox is to eschew the contemplative life and internalize an embodied fear of the private as a dangerous and seductive place where crimethink inevitably occurs. In Newspeak, (the abbreviated language of Ingsoc, or English Socialism) the pejorative term used to describe someone who indulges in self-reflection or contemplation is ownlife.

Of course, as Orwell's cautionary tale instructs us, if we do decide to put an end to the private sphere, then we will also - and not incidentally - abolish contemplativeness, self-reflection, friendship, solidarity, love and solicitude.

To cultivate ownlife requires that there be a private sphere where one can think outside of the world of Ingsoc or Party orthodoxy. Such a private sphere simply cannot be tolerated in a totalitarian surveillance state. It is crucial to grasp that in 1984, it is not merely the thoughtpolice who are on the lookout for unorthodoxy; it is typically family, neighbors and work acquaintances who watch each other. In Orwell's totalitarian world, a world that has abolished the private sphere, everyone is conditioned to be suspicious of everyone else, and if they inform authorities about the unorthodox behavior of coworkers, mothers, fathers and children, they are duly praised by Big Brother for being exemplary party members.

Of course we are talking here about a fictional totalitarian world. But there are very revealing analogies one can draw that go some way to answering the above question. We do not live in a totalitarian state, but we do live in a world that is saturated by digital and real violence, brutality, suspicion and cruelty. In the last 60 or so years, we have been taught to see the human species as untrustworthy, greedy, selfish, narcissistic and paranoid. We are deluged by an entertainment industry that profits from reality shows that fabricate human emotions, and reality crime shows that depict violent and pathetic individuals (usually of color) intoxicated by drugs or alcohol or engaging in sexual harassment, molestation, theft, assault or weapons violations.

We are encouraged to revel voyeuristically in this carnival of human debauchery, and our suspicions regarding the lascivious evil that hides behind the cover of the private are thereby confirmed. Governments tell us that potential radicals and terrorists live secret lives and operate behind a private realm. Given all of this, many of the thoughtless among us have tacitly agreed that it is okay if we are all continuously watched and that the sphere of the private is something to be feared, shunned and perhaps even abolished. Of course, as Orwell's cautionary tale instructs us, if we do decide to put an end to the private sphere, then we will also - and not incidentally - abolish contemplativeness, self-reflection, friendship, solidarity, love and solicitude.

The shunning of the private sphere through the tacit acceptance of global surveillance is already in full swing. Of course, we can be made to feel partially compensated for such a loss by internalizing the propaganda of global capitalism which presses us to continuously view ourselves and the private sphere as exploitable commodities. When this occurs, the border between the public and private entirely collapses. Within the framework of corporate capitalism, where human beings are thought of as consumers rather than citizens, we need to now think of the boundary between public and private not as a wall or a fence, but as an open field or free-trade zone where privacy itself is treated as a kind of public commodity that is bought, sold or traded. If insider information and knowledge is a powerful corporate advantage, then privacy data becomes a very precious commodity.

The shunning of the private sphere through the tacit acceptance of global surveillance is already in full swing.

The information about whom you talk to, where you live, what you buy, how much you spend, what prescription drugs you take, what restaurants you frequent, what hotels you stay at, what sort of clothes you buy, how much alcohol you drink, who your friends are, where you go for entertainment, what you like to read or watch on the internet, what you say to friends, family and acquaintances can all be gathered together and woven into a profile that is distinctive and valuable to the corporate capitalist. But like the pre-crime profile discussed above, this consumer profile is not merely about gathering information regarding any particular consumer activity to realize higher profits. It is also a way of mobilizing and organizing a future repository of both individual metadata and the data of whole populations that can be quickly and easily isolated, accessed and cross-referenced when government or corporate interests are in any way threatened.

It is at this security level - that is, the securing of future ownership, control and autocratic power - where we begin to see the merging of corporate and government interests. When governments tell us that surveillance is necessary for public security what they are really saying is that surveillance is a necessary step in eradicating personal privacy in order to protect the interests of private corporate tyrannies and autocratic governments from any future mass uprising or widespread political resistance. Despite this fact, there are many people who have come to think that a loss of privacy is nothing to worry about so long as "we are not doing anything wrong." Here we must recognize that thoughtless and naïve perspectives are the intentional effect of accepting totalitarian attitudes and perspectives. What follows from such an acceptance is a learned forgetfulness of the meaning and significance of the private and public spheres. Given this, what is called for is not just a reflection upon the individual loss of privacy, but a clear grasp of how an emerging multiplicity of interrelated surveillance devices, technologies and practices can work to undermine democracy while having far-reaching negative effects on the way we think and relate to ourselves, to each other and to a world community. What are some of these effects?

There are many people who have come to think that a loss of privacy is nothing to worry about so long as "we are not doing anything wrong."

It is crucial to understand here that the free-trade zone of individual privacy is not merely the creation of a new capitalist commodity or the realization of an untapped potential for profit. At the human level of lived experience, the eradication of privacy also creates a widespread sense of impotence, powerlessness and apathy before powerful governmental institutions and corporate hegemonies. This state of affairs will be pivotally important in the furtherance of rampant capitalist exploitation. Why? Precisely because eradicating the private sphere is also extinguishing the possibility that individuals can act in concert to resist what is happening to them. The truth is that we discover and sustain our sense of solidarity and commonality with others when we grasp that we are unique and irreplaceable beings who need to relate to ourselves and to each other in both a private and a public way. The condition of possibility for individual reflection, for community, for acting in concert, is that the distinction between the private and the public remains inviolable. The corporate capitalist system has achieved its singular totalitarian purpose when it is able to violate the inviolable.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

America's Secret Police

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 09:31 By Aaron Leonard, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/22005-americas-secret-police

In Betty Medsger's The Burglary: The Discovery of J Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI and Seth Rosenfeld's Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power, it is clear that an empire of the magnitude of the United States does not exist without a secret police.

The Burglary: The Discovery of J Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI Betty Medsger, Knopf 2014

Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power Seth Rosenfeld, Picador. 2013

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

Inside the Army Spy Ring and Attempted Entrapment of Peace Activists, Iraq Vets, Anarchists

Thursday, 27 February 2014 11:00 By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/22134-inside-the-army-spy-ring-and-attempted-entrapment-of-peace-activists-iraq-vets-anarchists

More details have come to light showing how the U.S. military infiltrated and spied on a community of antiwar activists in the state of Washington. Democracy Now! first broke this story in 2009 when it was revealed that an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance was actually an informant for the U.S. military. The man everyone knew as "John Jacob" was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. He also spied on the Industrial Workers of the World and Iraq Veterans Against the War. A newly made public email written by Towery reveals the Army informant was building a multi-agency spying apparatus. The email was sent from Towery using his military account to the FBI, as well as the police departments in Los Angeles, Portland, Eugene, Everett and Spokane. He wrote, "I thought it would be a good idea to develop a leftist/anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro." Meanwhile, evidence has also emerged that the Army informant attempted to entrap at least one peace activist, Glenn Crespo, by attempting to persuade him to purchase guns and learn to shoot. We speak to Crespo and his attorney Larry Hildes, who represents all the activists in the case.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oq5LBJRi1uI

Also see: Mike Ludwig | Spying on Activists: New Document Shows US Army Targeted Olympia Anarchists and War Protesters

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: More details have come to light showing the U.S. military infiltrated and spied on a community of antiwar activists in the state of Washington and beyond. Democracy Now! first broke the story in 2009 that an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance was actually an informant for the U.S. military. At the time, Port Militarization Resistance was staging nonviolent actions to stop military shipments bound for Iraq and Afghanistan. The man everyone knew as "John Jacob" was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. He also spied on the Industrial Workers of the World and Iraq Veterans Against the War. The antiwar activist Brendan Maslauskas Dunn helped expose John Towery’s true identity as a military spy. In 2009, Dunn spoke on Democracy Now!

BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: After it was confirmed that he was in fact John Towery, I knew he wouldn’t call me, so I called him up the day after. This was this past Thursday. And I called him up; I said, "John, you know, what’s the deal? Is this true?" And he told me; he said, "Yes, it is true, but there’s a lot more to this story than what was publicized." So he wanted to meet with me and another anarchist in person to further discuss what happened and what his role was.

So, when I met him, he admitted to several things. He admitted that, yes, he did in fact spy on us. He did in fact infiltrate us. He admitted that he did pass on information to an intelligence network, which, as you mentioned earlier, was composed of dozens of law enforcement agencies, ranging from municipal to county to state to regional, and several federal agencies, including Immigration Customs Enforcement, Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, Homeland Security, the Army in Fort Lewis.

So he admitted to other things, too. He admitted that the police had placed a camera, surveillance camera, across the street from a community center in Tacoma that anarchists ran called the Pitch Pipe Infoshop. He admitted that there were police that did put a camera up there to spy on anarchists, on activists going there.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Brendan Maslauskas Dunn speaking in 2009 on Democracy Now! He’s now a plaintiff in a lawsuit against John Towery, the military and other law enforcement agencies.

Since 2009, there have been numerous developments in the case. A newly made public email written by Towery reveals the Army informant was building a multi-agency spying apparatus. The email was sent by Towery using his military account. It was sent to the FBI as well as the police departments in Los Angeles, in Portland, Eugene, Everett and Spokane, Washington. He wrote, quote, "I thought it would be a good idea to develop a leftist/anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro." Towery also cites "zines and pamphlets," and a "comprehensive web list" as source material, but cautions the officials on file sharing becase, quote, "it might tip off groups that we are studying their techniques, tactics and procedures," he wrote. The subject of the email was "Anarchist Information."

Meanwhile, evidence has also emerged that the Army informant may have attempted to entrap at least one of the peace activists by attempting to persuade him to purchase guns and learn to shoot.

We’re joined now by two guests. Glenn Crespo is a community organizer in the Bay Area who used to live in Washington state, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the military and other agencies. He’s joining us from Berkeley. And with us in Seattle, Washington, longtime attorney Larry Hildes, who represents the activists in the case.

The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs Office declined to join us on the program, saying, quote, "Because this case is still in litigation we are unable to provide comment."

Let’s go first to Washington state, to Larry Hildes. Can you talk about the latest developments in this case, and what has just come out?

LARRY HILDES: Sure. Good morning, Amy. It’s interesting. What came out did not come out from this case. It came out from a Public Records Act request from a different client of ours who was arrested in an anti-police-brutality march and falsely charged with assaulting an officer, that the civil case is coming to trial in a couple weeks. He put in a Public Records Act request because he was active with PMR and was concerned that he had been targeted, and he was then subject to a number of citations and arrests.

And, yeah, the Army’s investigative reports claimed that, well, there may have been some rules broken, but Towery was doing this off the job in his off-hours, unpaid, for the sheriff—for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office and the fusion center. Here he is at his desk, 10:00 in the morning, using his military ID, his military email address, and identifying himself by his military titles, writing the law enforcement agencies all over the country about forming this mini-group to target and research anarchists and leftists, and it’s coming out of what’s called the DT Conference that the State Patrol was hosting here in Washington, Domestic Terrorism Conference. They created a book for this conference based on information largely from Towery that included Brendan Dunn and one of our other plaintiffs, Jeff Berryhill, and two other activists with PMR, listed them as domestic terrorists and a violent threat because of their—basically, because they were targeted by Towery and because of their activism and their arrests for civil disobedience. So, he’s taking something he created, labeling these people as terrorists, going to a conference with this information, and saying, "We should disseminate this and work on this more broadly."

It also puts the lie to Towery’s claim and his supervisor Tom Rudd’s claim that Towery was simply working to protect troop movements from—between Fort Lewis and the public ports of Stryker vehicles going to the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re not shipping out of L.A. They’re not shipping out of Portland or Eugene. And they’re not—none of these are agencies that are directly involved in protecting military shipments from Fort Lewis. So it’s clear there’s a much larger agenda here.

And we’ve seen that in some other ways. There are extensive notes that we’ve received of Towery’s spying on a conference of the Evergreen State College in Olympia about tactics for the protests at the DNC in Denver in '08, Republican—Democratic National Convention, and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in ’08, and who was going to do what, the red, yellow and green zones, and specifically what was going to happen on the Monday of the convention. And it was the RNC Welcome Committee, which then got raided and became the RNC 8—claimed that they were planning acts of terrorism, which were in reality acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. So this goes way beyond Fort Lewis and PMR, and there's a full—there seems to be a much larger agenda, as we’ve seen in other places, of nonviolent activism equals terrorism equals anarchism equals justification for whatever spying or law enforcement action we want to take.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to—

LARRY HILDES: And obviously this is not—sorry, go ahead, Amy.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read from your lawsuit. You write, quote, "In addition to the Army, Coast Guard, and Olympia Police Department, the following agencies are known to have spied on, infiltrated, or otherwise monitored the activities of PMR and/or related or associated activists: Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Tacoma Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, Ft. Lewis Police Department, 504th Military Police Division, Aberdeen Police Department, The Evergreen State College Police Department, the Lacey Police Department, the [Tumwater] Police Department, the Seattle Police Department, the King County Sheriff’s Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Protective Service, other Divisions of the Department of Homeland Security, Naval Investigative Services, Air Force Intelligence (which has created a special PMR SDS taskforce at McGwire Air Force Base in New Jersey), The Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Seattle Joint Terrorism Taskforce, as well as the previously discussed civilian employees of the City of Olympia. This list is likely incomplete," you write. That is a very extensive list, Larry Hildes.

LARRY HILDES: It is. And it turns out it is incomplete. And those were all agencies that we had documents obtained from Public Records Act requests showing that they were directly involved. So now we’re finding out there’s more agencies. The Evergreen State College was giving regular reports to the State Patrol, to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and to Towery and Rudd about activities of SDS on campus at Evergreen. And there’s an extensive discussion about the conference about the DNC and RNC protests and that the chief of police is the source for the information. But, yeah, now we’ve got L.A. This gets bizarre. And we received 9,440 pages of sealed documents from the Army as a Christmas present on December 21st that—that I can’t even talk about, because they insisted that everything was privileged. It was supposed to be privileged as to private information and security information, but it’s everything, all kinds of emails. So, yeah, I mean, it starts out sounding very encompassing, and we’re finding out we were conservative about what agencies were involved.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Glenn Crespo into this conversation, a Bay Area community organizer. You were the peace activist who John Towery, you say, attempted to persuade you to purchase guns, to learn to shoot. How did you meet him, and what happened when he tried to get you to do this?

GLENN CRESPO: Well, this kind of relationship spanned over a two-, maybe two-and-a-half-year period of time. I first met him at a weapons symposium demonstration in Tacoma, Washington, in downtown Tacoma. I didn’t introduce myself to him at that point, but I saw him there. He came out—he actually came out of the symposium, and this was a conference where Lockheed Martin and all these other weapons manufacturers and distributors were showing their wares. He came out of that, and it appeared to me as if other activists in Olympia had already become friends with them. He was very friendly with them, they were very friendly with him. That was the first time I saw him. That was in mid-2007. Not long after that, he organized a Tacoma PMR meeting, and I wasn’t really involved—

AMY GOODMAN: Port Militarization Resistance.

GLENN CRESPO: Yeah, exactly. And I wasn’t very involved in that, but I did get the mass email. So I figured, because I lived in Tacoma, I might as well go check it out. He was the first person there. I was the second person there. He introduced himself. I introduced myself. And he asked me about a poster that he had made regarding an upcoming demonstration, and he said he was going to bring it to the group and see if we could get consensus on whether or not it was OK if he put it up. And I told him that—I looked at the poster and said, you know, "This is pretty general." There’s no particular reason I really think that he has to get consensus on whether or not he can put a poster up that’s kind of basically just time and place and description of the event. And that was the first time I met him.

He later on used that conversation as a way to boost our rapport between each other, when he said that he thought that that conversation was really profound to him, that he believed that it was interesting that I kind of wanted to—or suggested that he bypass some sort of consensus process regarding this poster, so that he can just do—you know, that he could do what he wants. You know, he could put the poster up if he wants to. That was very interesting. I realized that in retrospect, that that was a way that he tried to broaden or expand upon our friendship in the beginning.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

AMY GOODMAN: And then, where did the guns come in?

GLENN CRESPO: Probably within the six to seven months after meeting him, so late—late 2007. He had started coming to events at the house I was living at in Tacoma. We were doing—we did a lending library. And we were doing a lot of organizing regarding the Tacoma Immigration and Customs detention center, so the ICE detention center. He would go to those meetings. He would come over for potlucks. So both public and private events, he kind of worked his way in as a friend.

He produced handgun to me in our kitchen, just between he and I. He carried it in his side pocket. He said he always carried a handgun on him. And he emptied it. He put the magazine out. He cleared the chamber, and he handed it to me. And he said he always carries one on him. And that, that was the first time he really talked about guns with me. And I was caught off guard, because at the time I was in my early twenties. I had never held a—I don’t even think I had seen a handgun, really, like that before. And that was kind of the beginning of him starting to talk more about guns. And he said—he had said that if we ever wanted to go shooting, being me and my friends, or myself in particular, that he would take us shooting, or, you know, he knows where all the gun shows are at, so we could go to gun shows if—you know, if we’re interested. And then, later on, these things did happen, when he prompted myself and others to go to the Puyallup Gun Show and purchase—purchase a rifle. And then, that went into going to shooting ranges that he was already a member of. He would drive us to all of these things, take us to these shooting ranges.

And this seemed fairly innocuous to me, in the beginning. I mean, Washington is a pretty gun-owner-friendly state. It didn’t—it didn’t really surprise me, because he wasn’t saying anything crazy or really implying anything crazy at that point. But about a year into that, there was a significant shift in his personality. Whereas in the beginning he was very optimistic and very—seemed very hopeful and kind of seemed lonely—I mean, he was, you know, in his early forties, early to mid-forties. He primarily surrounding himself with people who were in their early twenties. And he just came off as if he was kind of a sweet, harmless guy and was kind of lonely and wanted to hang out with people that he felt like he had something in common with, as far as his ideas went. But like I said, into a year into that relationship, he started to become a little bit more sinister and dark in his demeanor, in his—the things he would talk about.

And this continued to go into him giving myself and another friend a set of documents that were military strategy documents, and he said that he—he suggested that "we," whatever that meant, use those documents in "our actions." And these were documents on how to properly execute military operations. And then, following that, he showed people at my house, including myself, how to clear a building with a firearm. And these things were prompted by him. He would basically say, "Hey, do you—you know, check this out. Look, I could explain this stuff." And he would just go into it, on how to, for example, in this case, clear a building with a firearm. So he had a mock—you know, he would hold a rifle up, or a make-believe rifle, and clear—stalk around the lower levels of our house and up the stairwell, all the way up the second stairwell into the attic, and the whole time talking about how he would—you know, how he was clearing corners and checking angles and all this stuff that nobody particularly had any interest in.

And around the same time, he had, you know, conversations with me about how he believed that anarchists were very similar to fascists, in a—almost in a positive light, where he was saying that they both don’t care about the law and don’t use the law to get what they need or what they want, and that he believed that the only way anarchism or anarchy would ever work, in his words, would be if five billion people died. So this is kind of in his—in the midst of his weird, sinister behavior that started to happen, that I thought that he was depressed. I thought that he was basically going through some sort of like maybe existential crisis, or maybe he was fed up with things. I wasn’t really sure. He always talked about him having issues at the house—at his home. He had implied that his wife was concerned that he was cheating on her, and that’s why we could never go to his house, because his wife didn’t like us, his other friends, or whatever.

He submitted an article in the same—like the last—you know, that last half of the time that I knew him as a friend. He submitted an article to a magazine that I was editor of in early 2009, that was written from the perspective of 9/11 hijackers. And I remember this very specifically, because he gave me a copy, a physical copy, when we were on our way to go get coffee. And I remember reading it, and probably about a quarter of the way through realizing I didn’t even feel comfortable touching it, like touching the physical document with my hands. It was the weirdest thing in the world, because it was kind of—it was basically implying—or seeming sympathetic with the 9/11 hijackers. And he wanted me to publish this in his—in the next issue of the magazine I was editor of. So I just—I actually—because he was being so forceful, I just didn’t do the magazine again. That first issue was the last issue. And once he submitted that paper, I didn’t publish it ever again.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask your lawyer, Larry Hildes, is this entrapment, I mean, when you’re talking about this whole progression that Glenn Crespo went through with the man he thought was named John Jacob, who in fact is John Towery, working at Fort Lewis? He’s military personnel.

LARRY HILDES: I think, absolutely, it was an attempted entrapment. He went step by step. He misjudged our folks. He thought our—he correctly saw that our folks were angry and upset about what was going on, but misjudged them. It feels like we could have ended up with a Cleveland Five or an 803 situation very easily, if he had had his way. Fortunately, our folks’ reaction was: "This is really weird and creepy. Get away from me." And it speaks to how little he understood the nature of the antiwar movement and how little he understood people’s actual commitment to nonviolent action, to not seeing the troops themselves as the enemies—

AMY GOODMAN: Larry—

LARRY HILDES: —but seeing the war—yeah, I’m—yeah, go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Larry Hildes, we don’t have much time, but I just want to ask about Posse Comitatus and the laws that separate the military—I mean, they’re not supposed to be marching through the streets of the United States.

LARRY HILDES: Yeah, right.

AMY GOODMAN: What about this issue of investigating? And how far and extensive is this infiltration campaign, where you put in people, they change their names, and they try to entrap or they change the nature of what these actions are?

LARRY HILDES: I think they crossed the line. They claim they’re allowed to do some level of investigative work to protect military activities, military shipments. But entrapping people—attempting to entrap people into conspiracies where they can get charged with major felonies they had no intention of committing, dealing with law enforcement agencies around the country to keep tabs on activists, following them to protests in Denver and St. Paul that have absolutely nothing to do with military shipments, they crossed the line into law enforcement, into civilian law enforcement.

And they did so quite knowingly and deliberately, and created this cover story that Towery was working for the fusion center, reporting to the sheriff’s office, not doing this during his work time, because they were well aware—in fact, he got paid overtime for attending the RNC, DNC conference at Evergreen, by the Army. So the Army was expressly paying him to monitor, disrupt and destroy these folks’ activism and their lives. I mean, we had—at one point, Brendan Dunn had four cases at the same time in four counties, because they kept stopping him. Seven times he got arrested or cited; Jeff Berryhill several times; Glenn Crespo. People would get busted over and over and over. Towery was attending their personal parties, their birthday parties, their going-away parties, and taking these vicious notes and passing them on about how to undermine these folks, how to undermine their activities, how to destroy their lives. This is way into Posse Comitatus. This is way beyond any legitimate military role.

And it’s exactly why Posse Comitatus exists. The job of the military, as they see it, is to seek out the enemy and destroy them, neutralize them. When the enemy is nonviolent dissenters and the First Amendment becomes the enemy, as Chris Pyle, our expert, who was the investigator for the Church Committee, put it—the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment are an inconvenience to the Army; they ignore them; they’re not sworn to uphold them in the same way—it becomes a very dangerous situation. And yes, they are way over into illegal conduct. They’re into entrapment operations. They’re into trying to silence dissent against them, and apparently much larger. This case just keeps getting bigger as we go. And we’re set for trial, I should say, on June 2nd—

AMY GOODMAN: And we will continue to cover this.

LARRY HILDES: —at this point.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Larry Hildes, lead attorney representing the antiwar activists spied on by the military, civil rights attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, speaking to us from Seattle, Washington. And Glenn, thank you so much for being with us. Glenn Crespo is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, a community organizer in the Bay Area of California.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, spies in the movement. We’re going to go back some time to the civil rights movement. Stay with us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by JGriff99mph (507) 3 years ago

Excellent article.