Thursday, July 3, 2014

NSA Calls Privacy Seekers 'Terrorists' While DoD Spends Millions to Qwell Grassroots Uprisings

Today William Binney and Thomas Drake testified before a German parliamentary committee in an effort to shed further light upon the American intelligence spying apparatus and how it has been effecting German citizens following disclosures from Edward Snowden which revealed that the NSA had been spying on the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, other prominent German politicians, and German citizens.

William Binney worked for the NSA for 32 years and was described as the best mathematician and code breaker in the institutions history.  He was a premier architect of the programming of the project ThinThread, elements of which the NSA later used as a means to illegally wiretap and invade the privacy of US citizens, collecting sweeping and widespread amounts of US citizen’s personal communications and information.  However when he was creating the ThinThread program it was designed to protect the privacy of US citizens, and that it was only until after the events of September 11th that this concern for privacy was thrown out the window, despite the fact that the NSA had overwhelming intelligence and foreknowledge of the attacks with the programing functioning as it had, this is corroborated by testimonies of Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, and just about every other NSA whistleblower.  In January of 2014 Willian Binney, Thomas Drake, J. Kirk Wiebe as well as other NSA insiders penned a letter to President Obama which described in detail these facts.  If anyone would know about the NSA’s global spying apparatus and the information that it collects, it would have to be the person who wrote the damn programs.  Binney resigned from the NSA in 2001 stating that he could not stay on board while the agencies purposefully violated the constitution.

Thomas Drake was a senior executive of the NSA who suffered many years of persecution from the Justice Department and the FBI for challenging the NSA Trailblazer program and the overall invasive spying techniques of the agency which violated US citizen’s most basic constitutional rights.  Instead Drake was part of a minority that favored the ThinThread program, which had privacy protection as a key component and utilized encryption techniques so that US citizens communications could only be accessed through obtaining a warrant; this was fully compatible with the protections in the Bill of Rights against illegal searches and seizures.  For this he was spied upon, threatened, got his home raided and ransacked at gunpoint (as did Bill Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe), and despite not being charged for any crimes his rights and privacy continued to be invaded in what amounts to an intimidation campaign against someone who favored protecting Americans constitutional rights over a national security state.  Mr. Drake is a key example of the failure of working through proper channels to expose and oust government illegality; he complained internally to the proper authorities, to his immediate supervisors, the NSA Inspector General, the Defense Department Inspector General, and the House and Senate Congressional intelligence committees as well, and the result for him was disastrous.

The Germans have a unique history with governmental spying and are historically well aware of the tyrannical nature of living under a national security state.  The United States on the other hand has no such historical knowledge, which perhaps helps explain the apathetic and disconnected approach to this problem that most American citizens seem to be guilty of; it seems reminiscent of a sort of disconnected denial, one in which no one wants to talk about the uncomfortable elephant in the room holding a magnifying glass to all of our most sensitive info and communications.

This is most troubling given another report released today, one written in part by privacy advocate and contributor to the Tor Project Jacob Appelbaum, which reveals that the NSA is targeting “virtually anyone who has taken an interest in several well-known privacy software systems,” such as Tor and Tails.  The authors report, 
“The former NSA director General Keith Alexander stated that all those communicating with encryption will be regarded as terror suspects and will be monitored and stored as a method of prevention, as quoted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in August last year. The top secret source code published here indicates that the NSA is making a concerted effort to combat any and all anonymous spaces that remain on the internet. Merely visiting privacy-related websites is enough for a user's IP address to be logged into an NSA database.” 
It is striking that former NSA director General Keith Alexander would say this given his undoubted authority and supremacy in determining and shaping the course of NSA policy, James Bamford reports in regards to Alexander that, 
“Never before has anyone in America’s intelligence sphere come close to his degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy. A four-star Army general, his authority extends across three domains: He is director of the world’s largest intelligence service, the National Security Agency; chief of the Central Security Service; and commander of the US Cyber Command. As such, he has his own secret military, presiding over the Navy’s 10th Fleet, the 24th Air Force, and the Second Army.”
Given that NSA officials view those engaged in efforts to protect their privacy as ‘terror suspects,’ it is severely troubling that recently an academic study was published by researchers at Facebook, Cornell University, and the University of California in the June edition of the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists,’ titled, ‘Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,’ which altered the content that showed up on users Facebook feeds and studied its effects on users emotional responses as well as how this effected their online behaviors.  The study was conducted in order to determine how emotions can spread through social media,
“We show, via a massive (N = 689,003) experiment on Facebook, that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. We provide experimental evidence that emotional contagion occurs without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues.”
However this ‘massive experiment’ was connected to a Department of Defense project called the Minerva Initiative in which the DoD funds universities with millions of dollars to research the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies.

SCGnews reports, “In the official credits for the study conducted by Facebook you'll find Jeffrey T. Hancock from Cornell University. If you go to the Minerva initiative website you'll find that Jeffery Hancock received funding from the Department of Defense for a study called "Cornell: Modeling Discourse and Social Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes". If you go to the project site for that study you'll find a visualization program that models the spread of beliefs and disease. 
Cornell University is currently being funded for another DoD study right now called "Cornell: Tracking Critical-Mass Outbreaks in Social Contagions" (you'll find the description for this project on the Minerva Initiative's funding page).
The Department of Defense's investment in the mechanics of psychological contagion and Facebook's assistance, have some very serious implications…”
RT also reports that Hancocks study “Modeling Discourse and Social Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes” appeared in 2009, one year before the US Army War College’s Strategic Institute warned that in the wake of a global financial meltdown the US could face massive civil unrest, “Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,” the report, authored by [Ret.] Lt. Col. Nathan Freir, states.  This study is corroborated by many Pentagon planning documents which suggest that the NSA’s mass surveillance in part is motivated to prepare for the destabilizing impact of coming environmental, energy and economic shocks.

Nafeez Ahmed also reports of the Minerva Initiative program’s interest in gathering information on peaceful activists and conflating these basic rights of assembly as being equal to supporting political violence, 
“Last year, the DoD's Minerva Initiative funded a project to determine 'Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?' which, however, conflates peaceful activists with "supporters of political violence" who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on "armed militancy" themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists: 
"In every context we find many individuals who share the demographic, family, cultural, and/or socioeconomic background of those who decided to engage in terrorism, and yet refrained themselves from taking up armed militancy, even though they were sympathetic to the end goals of armed groups. The field of terrorism studies has not, until recently, attempted to look at this control group. This project is not about terrorists, but about supporters of political violence." 
The project's 14 case studies each "involve extensive interviews with ten or more activists and militants in parties and NGOs who, though sympathetic to radical causes, have chosen a path of non-violence."
I contacted the project's principal investigator, Prof Maria Rasmussen of the US Naval Postgraduate School, asking why non-violent activists working for NGOs should be equated to supporters of political violence – and which "parties and NGOs" were being investigated – but received no response. 
Similarly, Minerva programme staff refused to answer a series of similar questions I put to them, including asking how "radical causes" promoted by peaceful NGOs constituted a potential national security threat of interest to the DoD. 
Among my questions, I asked: 
"Does the US Department of Defense see protest movements and social activism in different parts of the world as a threat to US national security? If so, why? Does the US Department of Defense consider political movements aiming for large scale political and economic change as a national security matter? If so, why? Activism, protest, 'political movements' and of course NGOs are a vital element of a healthy civil society and democracy - why is it that the DoD is funding research to investigate such issues?"
Nafeez only received a cookie-cutter statement in reply from the DoD’s press office. 

These reports indicating the Department of Defense’s extraordinary interest in monitoring how critical-mass outbreaks are started, the effects and dynamics and tipping-points of large-scale civil unrest movements, and how emotional states are transferred ‘via emotional contagion,’ and subsequently how these emotional states and spreading contagion effect individuals behaviors and actions, are very troubling given the fact that anyone engaged in attempting to protect themselves from these kinds of experiments and research studies are labeled as 'terrorists;' more troubling still is the governments increasing interest in monitoring social media sites, recently a senior US intelligence official disclosed while briefing reporters that, “one of the biggest sources of intelligence for American analysts is Facebook and Twitter postings.”

In times like this it is important to remember that peaceful protests movements that challenged the status quo order of society like the one led by Martin Luther King Jr. were looked upon by the establishment as terroristic and a direct internal threat; J. Edgar Hoover, the mastermind behind the COINTELPRO program which was a covert FBI initiative to illegally monitor, survey, disrupt, discredit and neutralize any civil rights groups or protests that were seen as destabilizing the political and social order of society, which just so happened to encompass the entire spectrum of Leftist activism and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, had an obsessive and vitriolic hate for Dr. King and is quoted as saying in regards to him that, "In the light of King's powerful demagogic speech. . . . We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security."

A US Civil Court in 1999 found that US government agencies were found guilty and complicit in the death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King was the leading figure of the Civil Rights Movement, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest speakers for human rights and what it means to be human.  Let us not forget how governmental agencies and the establishment elites view these kind of heroic efforts and how they respond to them, or else we will be doomed to repeat this sordid history when we stand up for our own rights and freedoms.

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