Welcome login | signup
Language en es fr
OccupyForum

Forum Post: Chris Hedges | What Obama Really Meant Was...

Posted 2 months ago on Jan. 20, 2014, 3:52 p.m. EST by LeoYo (4840)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Chris Hedges | What Obama Really Meant Was...

Monday, 20 January 2014 13:19 By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21335-chris-hedges-what-obama-really-meant-was

Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence

(if he had told the truth)

Department of Injustice

Washington, D.C.

11:15 a.m. EST

THE PRESIDENT: A small, secret surveillance committee of goons and thugs hiding behind the mask of patriotism was established in 1908 in Washington, D.C. The group was led from 1924 until 1972 by J. Edgar Hoover, and during his reign it became known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI agents spied upon and infiltrated labor unions, political parties, radical groups—especially those led by African-Americans—anti-war groups and the civil rights movement in order to discredit anyone, including politicians such as Henry Wallace, who questioned the power of the state and big business. Agents burglarized homes and offices, illegally opened mail and planted unlawful wiretaps. Bureau leaders created blacklists. They destroyed careers and sometimes lives. They demanded loyalty oaths. By the time they were done, our progressive and radical movements, which had given us the middle class and opened up our political system, were dead. And while the FBI was targeting internal dissidents, our foreign intelligence operatives were overthrowing regimes, bankrolling some of the most vicious dictators on the planet and carrying out assassinations in numerous countries, such as Cuba and the Philippines and later Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Throughout American history, intelligence services often did little more than advance and protect corporate profits and solidify state repression and imperialist expansion. War, for big business, has always been very lucrative and used as an excuse to curtail basic liberties and crush popular movements. “Inter arma silent leges,” as Cicero said, or “During war, the laws are silent.” In the Civil War, during which the North and the South suspended the writ of habeas corpus and up to 750,000 soldiers died in the slaughter, Union intelligence worked alongside Northern war profiteers who sold cardboard shoes to the Army as the spy services went about the business of ruthlessly hunting down deserters. The First World War, which gave us the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act and saw President Woodrow Wilson throw populists and socialists, including Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs, into prison, produced $28.5 billion in net profits for businesses and created 22,000 new millionaires. Wall Street banks, which lent $2.5 billion to nations allied with the United States, made sure Wilson sent U.S. forces into the senseless trench warfare so they would be repaid. World War II—which consumed more than 50 million lives and saw 110,000 Japanese-Americans hauled away to internment camps and atomic bombs dropped on defenseless civilians—doubled wartime corporate profits from the First World War. Why disarm when there was so much money to be made from stoking fear?

The rise of the Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons provided the justification by big business for sustaining a massive arms industry, for a huge expansion of our surveillance capabilities and for more draconian assaults against workers and radicals. The production of weapons was about profits rather than logic. We would go on to produce more than 70,000 nuclear bombs or warheads at a cost of $5.5 trillion, enough weapons to obliterate every Soviet city several times over. And in the early days of the Cold War, with Hoover and Joe McCarthy and his henchmen blacklisting anyone with a conscience in government, the arts, journalism, labor unions or education, President Harry S. Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA.

Throughout this evolution, Americans were steadily shorn of their most basic constitutional rights and their traditions of limited government. U.S. intelligence agencies were always anchored in a system of secrecy—with little effective oversight from either elected leaders or ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a sterling example of what our corporate masters might achieve with pervasive, unchecked surveillance that turned citizens into informers and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their homes. Today I would like to thank the architects of this East German system, especially Erich Mielke, once the chief of the communist East German secret police. I want to assure them that the NSA has gone on to perfect what the Stasi began.

In the 1960s, the U.S. government spied on civil rights leaders, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement and critics of the Vietnam War, just as today we are spying on Occupy activists, environmentalists, whistle-blowers and other dissidents. And partly in response to these revelations decades ago, especially regarding the FBI’s covert dirty tricks program known as COINTELPRO, laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens. In the long, twilight struggle against communism, and now in the fight against terrorism, I am happy to report that we have eradicated all of these reforms and laws. The crimes for which Richard Nixon resigned and the abuses of power that prompted the formation of the Church Commission are now legal. The liberties that some patriots, including Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, have sought to preserve have been sacrificed at the altar of national security. To obtain your personal information, the FBI can now freely issue “national security letters” to your bank, doctor, employer or public library or any of your associates without a judicial warrant. And you will never be notified of an investigation. We can collect and store in perpetuity all metadata of your email correspondence and phone records and track your geographical movements. We can assassinate you if I decide you are a terrorist. We can order the military under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act to arrest you, strip you of due process and hold you indefinitely in military detention centers. We can continue to throw into prison those who expose the illegality of what we are doing, or force them into exile, as all totalitarian secret police forces from the SS to the KGB to the East German Stasi have done. And we can torture.

The fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower. This threatened to delegitimize our massive spending on war and state security, now more than 50 percent of our budget. But a group of Islamic radicals who had never posed an existential threat to our country emerged to take the place of the old communist bloc. The politics of fear and the psychosis of permanent war were able to be continued. The war on terror placed new and in some ways more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies. Our illegal and disastrous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and our indiscriminate bombing of other countries, along with the war crimes Israel is carrying out against the Palestinian people, are driving people in the Muslim world into the arms of these militant groups. We are the most hated nation on earth. At the same time, globalization—our corporate policy of creating a worldwide neofeudalism of masters and serfs—means we must spy on citizens to prevent agitation and revolt. After all, if you are a worker, things are only going to get worse. To quash competitors of American companies, we spy on corporations in Brazil, including Brazil’s biggest oil company, Petrobras, and on corporations in Germany and France. We also steal information from the leaders of many countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose personal cellphone we tapped. However, Ms. Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, should not, as she has done, accuse us of being the Stasi. We are much more efficient than the Stasi was. We spied successfully on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in addition to Pope Francis and the conclave that elected him last March. Senior U.N. officials and Roman Catholic cardinals are highly susceptible to recruitment by al-Qaida. The reasons are classified. I won’t share them with you. Believe me.

Threats to the nation raised new legal and policy questions, which fortunately our courts, abject tools of the corporate state, solved by making lawful everything from torture to wholesale surveillance. I would like to take a moment to thank our nation’s compliant judges, the spineless deans of most prestigious law schools and most law professors and lawyers for refusing to defend the Constitution. They have been valued partners, along with the press, in our campaign to eradicate your civil liberties.

The horror of September 11th was masterfully manipulated by the security state and our for-profit military-industrial complex. These forces used the attacks as an excuse to increase the massive pilfering of taxpayer dollars, especially by the Department of Homeland Security, which has a public budget of $98.8 billion. The truth, however, is the system of internal security is so vast and so secret no one in the public has any idea how large our programs are or how much we spend. It is true that our 16 intelligence agencies missed the numerous signs and evidence leading up to the 9/11 attacks. In short, they screwed up, just as they did when they failed to anticipate the fall of the Shah of Iran or the collapse of the Soviet Union, or when they told us Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But we have a rule in Washington: Never reform failed bureaucracies or hold government officials accountable; rather, give them more money. Keep failure secret.

10 Comments

10 Comments


Read the Rules
[-] 3 points by LeoYo (4840) 2 months ago

It is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we’ve taken enormous strides in making the Middle East a caldron of rage. New capabilities and new laws have turned us into the most efficient killers on the planet. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, creating one immense, global corporate system of surveillance and security that obliterates the rights of people at home and abroad. Taken together, these efforts have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. We have terrorized whole countries from the sky and forced millions to become refugees. This will ensure endless war, which ensures endless profits for those who make war—which is the point.

Over the last six months, I created an outside Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to make recommendations for reform. This group is led by the same intelligence chiefs who carry out the abuses. The chancellor of Germany has, like many of our other allies, demanded we stop spying on citizens of that nation. But, unfortunately for the chancellor, as well as for you, my fellow Americans, we will continue to do whatever we want

The folks at the NSA and other intelligence agencies are our nation’s voyeurs and peeping Toms. They read your electronic bank and medical records. They know what you and your kids post on Facebook and Instagram. They have all of your emails and text messages. They track your movements through the GPS on your cellphone. They are not alone. Corporations of all kinds and sizes track your online searches and what you buy, then they analyze and store the data and use it for commercial purposes; that’s why those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone so often.

Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say “trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect.” History has too many examples of such trust being breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power. And that is why Congress and our courts have rewritten our laws, from the NDAA to the FISA Amendment Act, to strip you of legal protection.

I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Martin Luther King Jr. who were spied upon by their own government. But I, like Bill Clinton, have sold out those true patriots and gutted those government programs that made possible my own education and ascent into systems of elite power. As president I understand, as do Bill and Hillary, that political power is about us, not about you. I know where power in this country lies. It does not lie with the citizen. It lies with Wall Street and corporate boardrooms. And since my vanity demands that I be famous, wealthy and powerful, I work hard for these centers of power. None of these centers of power want to see any curbs on the security and surveillance state. And so I will make sure there are none.

As a senator, I was critical of practices such as warrantless wiretaps. But as president I have carried out a far more extensive assault on civil liberties than my predecessor, George W. Bush. I have used the Espionage Act eight times to charge patriots such as Edward Snowden who exposed crimes of the state. And I have lied to you often, as I did in the original version of this speech, to defend the right of our security and surveillance apparatus to spy on you without judicial warrants.

As a presidential candidate in 2008 I promised to “reject the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.” I promised to close our detention center in Guantanamo Bay. I said I would revisit the Patriot Act. I told you I would overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued by the Bush administration. I said I would shut down our black sites. And I promised an end to extraordinary rendition. I told you as president last summer that the NSA “cannot target your emails” and that all of our surveillance programs were subject to the full control of Congress. I have, along with our Congress and our highest courts, eradicated the Fourth Amendment, which once protected citizens from government intrusion into their persons, homes, papers and effects. And, to be frank, the only reason I am talking to you today about spying is because Edward Snowden has, through his leaked documents, illustrated that everything I and others in government have promised to do or told you about domestic and international surveillance is a lie.

Today I am announcing a series of cosmetic reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify through Congress.

First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities both at home and abroad that sounds impressive but means nothing.

Second, we will institute a few bureaucratic programs and procedures to give you the illusion of greater transparency while we continue to sweep up and store your personal information, including your telephone metadata.

Third, I propose more amorphous and undefined protections for government activities conducted under Section 702.

Fourth, the FBI’s national security letters will not be touched. But we could and should be more transparent in how government uses this authority. We really should. But we won’t. To make you feel better, however, I have directed the attorney general to amend how we use national security letters so that this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed—though unspecified—time unless the government demonstrates a need for further secrecy. That need might last forever.

This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months—the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215. Why is this necessary? It is necessary because in a totalitarian state the secret police must gather information not to solve crimes but, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, “to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population.” We need all of your emails, phone conversations, Web searches and geographical movements for “evidence” should we decide to seize you. And my apologies to Sen. Bernie Sanders, but we can’t make exemptions for members of Congress, especially when they come from Vermont. If you think you are innocent, or that you have nothing to hide, you do not understand what is happening. Justice, like truth, is no longer relevant. Ask Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, along with whistle-blowers like Thomas Drake, where justice and truth got them. One of the main tasks of any security service is blackmail, a tactic the FBI used to try to get Martin Luther King to commit suicide. So if you have any dirt we want to know about it.

I will propose turning over the storage of all your data to a third party, perhaps a private corporation. This will offer you no protection, but it should provide a good government contract to one of my major campaign donors.

The cosmetic reforms I’m proposing today will, I hope, give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, along with our courts, continue to eviscerate those rights. I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate, such as your constitutional right to halt the wholesale capturing and storing of your personal information and correspondence and evidence of your geographical movements. But don’t expect me to help. I sold out long ago.

The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, can be assured that the United States follows everything they do or say. It does not matter if they are ordinary people or foreign leaders. I am not going to apologize for monitoring the communications of friends and allies. We know what we are doing. We know why this is important. The effects of declining incomes for working men and women, the massive debt peonage that keeps people trapped, the slashing of government assistance programs, the chronic, long-term unemployment, and the effects of climate change will eventually trigger volatile unrest. We are ready. The likelihood of totalitarianism no longer comes from fascism or communism. It comes from corporations. Corporations, for which I work, fear those who think and write and speak out and form relationships freely. Individual freedom impedes their profits. And the surveillance system I am protecting today is designed to keep these corporations in power.

Our democracy is a fiction. We seek to maintain this fiction to keep you passive. Should you wake up, we will not shy away from draconian measures. I believe we can meet high expectations. Together, let us chart a way forward that secures your complete subjugation, the iron rule of our corporations and our power elite—at least until we make the planet wholly uninhabitable—while we continue to snuff out the liberties that once made our nation worth fighting for.

Thank you. May God bless you. May God bless Corporate America.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (4840) 2 months ago

Surveillance and Scandal: Time-Tested Weapons for US Global Power

Monday, 20 January 2014 12:58 By Alfred McCoy, TomDispatch | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21332-surveillance-and-scandal-time-tested-weapons-for-us-global-power

For more than six months, Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) have been pouring out from the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian, Germany’s Der Spiegel, and Brazil’s O Globo, among other places. Yet no one has pointed out the combination of factors that made the NSA’s expanding programs to monitor the world seem like such a slam-dunk development in Washington. The answer is remarkably simple. For an imperial power losing its economic grip on the planet and heading into more austere times, the NSA’s latest technological breakthroughs look like a bargain basement deal when it comes to projecting power and keeping subordinate allies in line -- like, in fact, the steal of the century. Even when disaster turned out to be attached to them, the NSA’s surveillance programs have come with such a discounted price tag that no Washington elite was going to reject them.

For well over a century, from the pacification of the Philippines in 1898 to trade negotiations with the European Union today, surveillance and its kissing cousins, scandal and scurrilous information, have been key weapons in Washington’s search for global dominion. Not surprisingly, in a post-9/11 bipartisan exercise of executive power, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have presided over building the NSA step by secret step into a digital panopticon designed to monitor the communications of every American and foreign leaders worldwide.

What exactly was the aim of such an unprecedented program of massive domestic and planetary spying, which clearly carried the risk of controversy at home and abroad? Here, an awareness of the more than century-long history of U.S. surveillance can guide us through the billions of bytes swept up by the NSA to the strategic significance of such a program for the planet’s last superpower. What the past reveals is a long-term relationship between American state surveillance and political scandal that helps illuminate the unacknowledged reason why the NSA monitors America’s closest allies.

Not only does such surveillance help gain intelligence advantageous to U.S. diplomacy, trade relations, and war-making, but it also scoops up intimate information that can provide leverage -- akin to blackmail -- in sensitive global dealings and negotiations of every sort. The NSA’s global panopticon thus fulfills an ancient dream of empire. With a few computer key strokes, the agency has solved the problem that has bedeviled world powers since at least the time of Caesar Augustus: how to control unruly local leaders, who are the foundation for imperial rule, by ferreting out crucial, often scurrilous, information to make them more malleable.

A Cost-Savings Bonanza With a Downside

Once upon a time, such surveillance was both expensive and labor intensive. Today, however, unlike the U.S. Army’s shoe-leather surveillance during World War I or the FBI’s break-ins and phone bugs in the Cold War years, the NSA can monitor the entire world and its leaders with only 100-plus probes into the Internet’s fiber optic cables.

This new technology is both omniscient and omnipresent beyond anything those lacking top-secret clearance could have imagined before the Edward Snowden revelations began. Not only is it unimaginably pervasive, but NSA surveillance is also a particularly cost-effective strategy compared to just about any other form of global power projection. And better yet, it fulfills the greatest imperial dream of all: to be omniscient not just for a few islands, as in the Philippines a century ago, or a couple of countries, as in the Cold War era, but on a truly global scale.

In a time of increasing imperial austerity and exceptional technological capability, everything about the NSA’s surveillance told Washington to just “go for it.” This cut-rate mechanism for both projecting force and preserving U.S. global power surely looked like a no-brainer, a must-have bargain for any American president in the twenty-first century -- before new NSA documents started hitting front pages weekly, thanks to Snowden, and the whole world began returning the favor.

As the gap has grown between Washington’s global reach and its shrinking mailed fist, as it struggles to maintain 40% of world armaments (the 2012 figure) with only 23% of global gross economic output, the U.S. will need to find new ways to exercise its power far more economically. As the Cold War took off, a heavy-metal U.S. military -- with 500 bases worldwide circa 1950 -- was sustainable because the country controlled some 50% of the global gross product.

But as its share of world output falls -- to an estimated 17% by 2016 -- and its social welfare costs climb relentlessly from 4% of gross domestic product in 2010 to a projected 18% by 2050, cost-cutting becomes imperative if Washington is to survive as anything like the planet’s “sole superpower.” Compared to the $3 trillion cost of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the NSA’s 2012 budget of just $11 billion for worldwide surveillance and cyberwarfare looks like cost saving the Pentagon can ill-afford to forego.

Yet this seeming “bargain” comes at what turns out to be an almost incalculable cost. The sheer scale of such surveillance leaves it open to countless points of penetration, whether by a handful of anti-war activists breaking into an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania, back in 1971 or Edward Snowden downloading NSA documents at a Hawaiian outpost in 2012.

Once these secret programs are exposed, it turns out that nobody really likes being under surveillance. Proud national leaders refuse to tolerate foreign powers observing them like rats in a maze. Ordinary citizens recoil at the idea of Big Brother watching their private lives like so many microbes on a slide.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (4840) 2 months ago

Cycles of Surveillance

Over the past century, the tension between state expansion and citizen-driven contraction has pushed U.S. surveillance through a recurring cycle. First comes the rapid development of stunning counterintelligence techniques under the pressure of fighting foreign wars; next, the unchecked, usually illegal application of those surveillance technologies back home behind a veil of secrecy; and finally, belated, grudging reforms as press and public discover the outrageous excesses of the FBI, the CIA, or now, the NSA. In this hundred-year span -- as modern communications advanced from the mail to the telephone to the Internet -- state surveillance has leapt forward in technology’s ten-league boots, while civil liberties have crawled along behind at the snail’s pace of law and legislation.

The first and, until recently, most spectacular round of surveillance came during World War I and its aftermath. Fearing subversion by German-Americans after the declaration of war on Germany in 1917, the FBI and Military Intelligence swelled from bureaucratic nonentities into all-powerful agencies charged with extirpating any flicker of disloyalty anywhere in America, whether by word or deed. Since only 9% of the country’s population then had telephones, monitoring the loyalties of some 10 million German-Americans proved incredibly labor-intensive, requiring legions of postal workers to physically examine some 30 million first-class letters and 350,000 badge-carrying vigilantes to perform shoe-leather snooping on immigrants, unions, and socialists of every sort. During the 1920s, Republican conservatives, appalled by this threat to privacy, slowly began to curtail Washington’s security apparatus. This change culminated in Secretary of State Henry Stimson’s abolition of the government’s cryptography unit in 1929 with his memorable admonition, “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

In the next round of mass surveillance during World War II, the FBI discovered that the wiretapping of telephones produced an unanticipated byproduct with extraordinary potential for garnering political power: scandal. To block enemy espionage, President Franklin Roosevelt gave the FBI control over all U.S. counterintelligence and, in May 1940, authorized its director, J. Edgar Hoover, to engage in wiretapping.

What made Hoover a Washington powerhouse was the telephone. With 20% of the country and the entire political elite by now owning phones, FBI wiretaps at local switchboards could readily monitor conversations by both suspected subversives and the president’s domestic enemies, particularly leaders of the isolationist movement such as aviator Charles Lindbergh and Senator Burton Wheeler.

Even with these centralized communications, however, the Bureau still needed massive manpower for its wartime counterintelligence. Its staff soared from just 650 in 1924 to 13,000 by 1943. Upon taking office on Roosevelt’s death in early 1945, Harry Truman soon learned the extraordinary extent of FBI surveillance. “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police,” Truman wrote in his diary that May. “FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail.”

After a quarter of a century of warrantless wiretaps, Hoover built up a veritable archive of sexual preferences among America’s powerful and used it to shape the direction of U.S. politics. He distributed a dossier on Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson’s alleged homosexuality to assure his defeat in the 1952 presidential elections, circulated audio tapes of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philandering, and monitored President Kennedy’s affair with mafia mistress Judith Exner. And these are just a small sampling of Hoover’s uses of scandal to keep the Washington power elite under his influence.

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator,” recalled William Sullivan, the FBI’s chief of domestic intelligence during the 1960s, “he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter...’ From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.” After his death, an official tally found Hoover had 883 such files on senators and 722 more on congressmen.

Armed with such sensitive information, Hoover gained the unchecked power to dictate the country’s direction and launch programs of his choosing, including the FBI’s notorious Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) that illegally harassed the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements with black propaganda, break-ins, and agent provocateur-style violence.

At the end of the Vietnam War, Senator Frank Church headed a committee that investigated these excesses. “The intent of COINTELPRO,” recalled one aide to the Church investigation, “was to destroy lives and ruin reputations.” These findings prompted the formation, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, of “FISA courts” to issue warrants for all future national security wiretaps.

Surveillance in the Age of the Internet

Looking for new weapons to fight terrorism after 9/11, Washington turned to electronic surveillance, which has since become integral to its strategy for exercising global power.

In October 2001, not satisfied with the sweeping and extraordinary powers of the newly passed Patriot Act, President Bush ordered the National Security Agency to commence covert monitoring of private communications through the nation's telephone companies without the requisite FISA warrants. Somewhat later, the agency began sweeping the Internet for emails, financial data, and voice messaging on the tenuous theory that such “metadata” was “not constitutionally protected.” In effect, by penetrating the Internet for text and the parallel Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) for voice, the NSA had gained access to much of the world’s telecommunications. By the end of Bush’s term in 2008, Congress had enacted laws that not only retrospectively legalized these illegal programs, but also prepared the way for NSA surveillance to grow unchecked.

Rather than restrain the agency, President Obama oversaw the expansion of its operations in ways remarkable for both the sheer scale of the billions of messages collected globally and for the selective monitoring of world leaders.

What made the NSA so powerful was, of course, the Internet -- that global grid of fiber optic cables that now connects 40% of all humanity. By the time Obama took office, the agency had finally harnessed the power of modern telecommunications for near-perfect surveillance. It was capable of both blanketing the globe and targeting specific individuals. It had assembled the requisite technological tool-kit -- specifically, access points to collect data, computer codes to break encryption, data farms to store its massive digital harvest, and supercomputers for nanosecond processing of what it was engorging itself on.

By 2012, the centralization via digitization of all voice, video, textual, and financial communications into a worldwide network of fiber optic cables allowed the NSA to monitor the globe by penetrating just 190 data hubs -- an extraordinary economy of force for both political surveillance and cyberwarfare.

With a few hundred cable probes and computerized decryption, the NSA can now capture the kind of gritty details of private life that J. Edgar Hoover so treasured and provide the sort of comprehensive coverage of populations once epitomized by secret police like East Germany’s Stasi. And yet, such comparisons only go so far.

After all, once FBI agents had tapped thousands of phones, stenographers had typed up countless transcripts, and clerks had stored this salacious paper harvest in floor-to-ceiling filing cabinets, J. Edgar Hoover still only knew about the inner-workings of the elite in one city: Washington, D.C. To gain the same intimate detail for an entire country, the Stasi had to employ one police informer for every six East Germans -- an unsustainable allocation of human resources. By contrast, the marriage of the NSA’s technology to the Internet’s data hubs now allows the agency’s 37,000 employees a similarly close coverage of the entire globe with just one operative for every 200,000 people on the planet.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (4840) 2 months ago

A Dream as Old as Ancient Rome

In the Obama years, the first signs have appeared that NSA surveillance will use the information gathered to traffic in scandal, much as Hoover’s FBI once did. In September 2013, the New York Times reported that the NSA has, since 2010, applied sophisticated software to create “social network diagrams..., unlock as many secrets about individuals as possible..., and pick up sensitive information like regular calls to a psychiatrist’s office, late-night messages to an extramarital partner.”

Through the expenditure of $250 million annually under its Sigint Enabling Project, the NSA has stealthily penetrated all encryption designed to protect privacy. “In the future, superpowers will be made or broken based on the strength of their cryptanalytic programs,” reads a 2007 NSA document. “It is the price of admission for the U.S. to maintain unrestricted access to and use of cyberspace.”

By collecting knowledge -- routine, intimate, or scandalous -- about foreign leaders, imperial proconsuls from ancient Rome to modern America have gained both the intelligence and aura of authority necessary for dominion over alien societies. The importance, and challenge, of controlling these local elites cannot be overstated. During its pacification of the Philippines after 1898, for instance, the U.S. colonial regime subdued contentious Filipino leaders via pervasive policing that swept up both political intelligence and personal scandal. And that, of course, was just what J. Edgar Hoover was doing in Washington during the 1950s and 1960s.

Indeed, the mighty British Empire, like all empires, was a global tapestry woven out of political ties to local leaders or “subordinate elites” -- from Malay sultans and Indian maharajas to Gulf sheiks and West African tribal chiefs. As historian Ronald Robinson once observed, the British Empire spread around the globe for two centuries through the collaboration of these local leaders and then unraveled, in just two decades, when that collaboration turned to “non-cooperation.” After rapid decolonization during the 1960s transformed half-a-dozen European empires into 100 new nations, their national leaders soon found themselves the subordinate elites of a spreading American global imperium. Washington suddenly needed the sort of private information that could keep such figures in line.

Surveillance of foreign leaders provides world powers -- Britain then, America now -- with critical information for the exercise of global hegemony. Such spying gave special penetrating power to the imperial gaze, to that sense of superiority necessary for dominion over others. It also provided operational information on dissidents who might need to be countered with covert action or military force; political and economic intelligence so useful for getting the jump on allies in negotiations of all sorts; and, perhaps most important of all, scurrilous information about the derelictions of leaders useful in coercing their compliance.

In late 2013, the New York Times reported that, when it came to spying on global elites, there were “more than 1,000 targets of American and British surveillance in recent years,” reaching down to mid-level political actors in the international arena. Revelations from Edward Snowden’s cache of leaked documents indicate that the NSA has monitored leaders in some 35 nations worldwide -- including Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, Mexican presidents Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Count in as well, among so many other operations, the monitoring of “French diplomatic interests” during the June 2010 U.N. vote on Iran sanctions and “widespread surveillance” of world leaders during the Group 20 summit meeting at Ottawa in June 2010. Apparently, only members of the historic “Five Eyes” signals-intelligence alliance (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Great Britain) remain exempt -- at least theoretically -- from NSA surveillance.

Such secret intelligence about allies can obviously give Washington a significant diplomatic advantage. During U.N. wrangling over the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2002-2003, for example, the NSA intercepted Secretary-General Kofi Anan’s conversations and monitored the “Middle Six” -- Third World nations on the Security Council -- offering what were, in essence, well-timed bribes to win votes. The NSA’s deputy chief for regional targets sent a memo to the agency’s Five Eyes allies asking “for insights as to how membership is reacting to on-going debate regarding Iraq, plans to vote on any related resolutions [..., and] the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals.”

Indicating Washington’s need for incriminating information in bilateral negotiations, the State Department pressed its Bahrain embassy in 2009 for details, damaging in an Islamic society, on the crown princes, asking: “Is there any derogatory information on either prince? Does either prince drink alcohol? Does either one use drugs?”

Indeed, in October 2012, an NSA official identified as “DIRNSA,” or Director General Keith Alexander, proposed the following for countering Muslim radicals: “[Their] vulnerabilities, if exposed, would likely call into question a radicalizer’s devotion to the jihadist cause, leading to the degradation or loss of his authority.” The agency suggested that such vulnerabilities could include “viewing sexually explicit material online” or “using a portion of the donations they are receiving… to defray personal expenses.” The NSA document identified one potential target as a “respected academic” whose “vulnerabilities” are “online promiscuity.”

Just as the Internet has centralized communications, so it has moved most commercial sex into cyberspace. With an estimated 25 million salacious sites worldwide and a combined 10.6 billionpage views per month in 2013 at the five top sex sites, online pornography has become a global business; by 2006, in fact, it generated $97 billion in revenue. With countless Internet viewers visiting porn sites and almost nobody admitting it, the NSA has easy access to the embarrassing habits of targets worldwide, whether Muslim militants or European leaders.

According to James Bamford, author of two authoritative books on the agency, “The NSA's operation is eerily similar to the FBI's operations under J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s where the bureau used wiretapping to discover vulnerabilities, such as sexual activity, to ‘neutralize’ their targets.”

The ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer has warned that a president might “ask the NSA to use the fruits of surveillance to discredit a political opponent, journalist, or human rights activist. The NSA has used its power that way in the past and it would be naïve to think it couldn't use its power that way in the future.” Even President Obama’s recently convened executive review of the NSA admitted: “[I]n light of the lessons of our own history… at some point in the future, high-level government officials will decide that this massive database of extraordinarily sensitive private information is there for the plucking.”

Indeed, whistleblower Edward Snowden has accused the NSA of actually conducting such surveillance. In a December 2013 letter to the Brazilian people, he wrote, “They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target's reputation.” If Snowden is right, then one key goal of NSA surveillance of world leaders is not U.S. national security but political blackmail -- as it has been since 1898.

Such digital surveillance has tremendous potential for scandal, as anyone who remembers New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s forced resignation in 2008 after routine phone taps revealed his use of escort services; or, to take another obvious example, the ouster of France’s budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac in 2013 following wire taps that exposed his secret Swiss bank account. As always, the source of political scandal remains sex or money, both of which the NSA can track with remarkable ease.

Given the acute sensitivity of executive communications, world leaders have reacted sharply to reports of NSA surveillance -- with Chancellor Merkel demanding Five-Eyes-exempt status for Germany, the European Parliament voting to curtail the sharing of bank data with Washington, and Brazil’s President Rousseff canceling a U.S. state visit and contracting a $560 million satellite communications system to free her country from the U.S.-controlled version of the Internet.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (4840) 2 months ago

The Future of U.S. Global Power

By starting a swelling river of NSA documents flowing into public view, Edward Snowden has given us a glimpse of the changing architecture of U.S. global power. At the broadest level, Obama’s digital “pivot” complements his overall defense strategy, announced in 2012, of reducing conventional forces while expanding into the new, cost-effective domains of space and cyberspace.

While cutting back modestly on costly armaments and the size of the military, President Obama has invested billions in the building of a new architecture for global information control. If we add the $791 billion expended to build the Department of Homeland Security bureaucracy to the $500 billion spent on an increasingly para-militarized version of global intelligence in the dozen years since 9/11, then Washington has made a $1.2 trillion investment in a new apparatus of world power.

So formidable is this security bureaucracy that Obama’s recent executive review recommended the regularization, not reform, of current NSA practices, allowing the agency to continue collecting American phone calls and monitoring foreign leaders into the foreseeable future. Cyberspace offers Washington an austerity-linked arena for the exercise of global power, albeit at the cost of trust by its closest allies -- a contradiction that will bedevil America’s global leadership for years to come.

To update Henry Stimson: in the age of the Internet, gentlemen don't just read each other’s mail, they watch each other’s porn. Even if we think we have nothing to hide, all of us, whether world leaders or ordinary citizens, have good reason to be concerned.

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com

[-] 2 points by RadicalsUnite (94) 2 months ago

what hedges really mean? http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/6574:activists-and-anarchists-speak-for-themselves-at-occupy-oakland hedges wants justice in greece and not oakland.

[-] 1 points by RadicalsUnite (94) 2 months ago

looking back its a bit terrifying how a poltiical leader can gather and command a nation when times are tough

[-] 0 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 months ago

hey guys

I still need my champions binders that disappeared in 2002.

It's criminal to steal someones work.

[-] 1 points by RadicalsUnite (94) 2 months ago

eat some freedom fries and see if they come back. are you a republican or a democrat or neither?

[-] 0 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 months ago

I 'm a pacifist