Thursday, December 17, 2015

CISA: Mass Surveillance Shows The Primary Enemy of the Government is its Own Population

The US Congress has decided to try and slip in the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) into the omnibus spending bill.  The omnibus is the bill that will fund the government for the 2016 fiscal year and thus prevent a government shutdown.  So in other words, it has to be passed.  It includes a bunch of other provisions and bills and packages them all up into one.  What usually happens though is that lawmakers will try and attach other pieces of legislation onto it, taking advantage of the necessity of its passing. 

As Representative Lloyd Doggett puts it “Usually on these omnibus budget bills, we learn what’s in it the week after it passes.”

And this is exactly what they are trying to do with CISA.

CISA is a bill that’s main function is to increase the government’s ability to surveil the public and collect civilian information without a warrant or any pretext for probable cause.  It does this by “encouraging” companies to spy on their customers and increase the data they collect by blocking the publics ability to bring lawsuits against them for violations of privacy.  It then encourages the businesses to share the information directly with the government without any warrant and absent the knowledge of those that are being surveilled.  

It allows businesses a free hand to spy on their customers and takes away our ability to challenge their doing so, and allows the government easy access to that info.

A version of the bill had already been passed in the House, and was then amended and passed in the Senate in a much weaker state.  The Senate and the House have to come to an agreement before it can make its way to the president’s desk for approval, and have been working on reconciling the two versions.  However the current, separate version being attached to the spending bill is even worse than the others; it essentially drops any pretense of being used for anything other than surveillance.  

It directly removes restrictions put in place against using the information for “surveillance” activities, removes restrictions that guarantee the government can only use the information for cybersecurity purposes, and removes the requirement to erase personal information unrelated to a cybersecurity threat before sharing the information with the government.

It is being packaged as a way to help provide the intelligence community with “the tools it needs to identify, disrupt and defeat threats to the homeland and our infrastructure”, but that’s a bad joke.

Massive surveillance of the entire population does not make the population safe and has not been shown to disrupt threats.  

University of Chicago Professor John J. Mearsheimer writes that “The Obama administration, not surprisingly, initially claimed that the NSA's spying played a key role in thwarting 54 terrorist plots against the United States, implying it violated the Fourth Amendment for good reason.

"This was a lie, however. Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, eventually admitted to Congress that he could claim only one success, and that involved catching a Somali immigrant and three cohorts living in San Diego who had sent $8,500 to a terrorist group in Somalia."

Not only has NSA spying not been shown to stop terrorism, in actuality it is our own federal agencies that are responsible for most of the terrorist plots within the country.

In the pursuit of terrorism convictions, presumably to justify “anti-terror” policies like surveillance, an extensive report by Human Rights Watch found that “all of the high-profile domestic terrorism plots of the last decade, with four exceptions, were actually FBI sting operations,” meaning that the plots were directly carried out with the instrumental aid of US government officials.  The officials were so involved in fact that in one case the government “came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,” and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man “whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.”  

In another case, the person convicted only became a terrorist “after the FBI provided the means, opportunity, and final prodding necessary to make him one.”

Which brings up another question: just what exactly is the magnitude of the “terror” threat?

Well, in actuality, it’s not much. 

As Stephen Walt notes in a recent article for Foreign Policy “As numerous scholarly studies have shown, the actual risk of terrorism to the average American is remarkably low. In their new book Chasing Ghosts, John Mueller and Mark Stewart estimate the odds that an American will be killed by a terrorist are about one in 4 million each year.”

The United States is “an extraordinarily secure country” writes Professor Mearsheimer, so why the elaborate, multi-billion-dollar surveillance apparatus?  The fact is that protection for the population is not a high priority for policymakers, whereas protection for corporate interests and state power, is.

For example, US intelligence explicitly warned that a war in Iraq would increase the threat of terrorism prior to the invasion.  Former CIA Director George Tenet quotes a paper by CIA analysts prepared 3 weeks before the invasion which states that the war will lead to “anarchy and the territorial breakup of Iraq” along with “a surge of global terrorism against US interests fueled by (militant) Islamism.”  

And as predicted, that’s exactly what happened.  

A study by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank found that the war “generated a sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks.”

Furthermore, Obama’s drone program, the most extensive terrorism campaign on the planet, is also a terrorism-generating campaign.  

Last year the Guardian reported on an extensive study which found that of 41 people targeted in Yemen and Afghanistan, a total of 1,147 people were killed.  

Given these numbers, it’s no wonder that high level officials like the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency agree that drones create more terrorist than they kill.  “When you drop a bomb from a drone” Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn says “you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good.”  

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, explained that “for every innocent person you kill [with drones], you create 10 new enemies.”

Adding to this is the fact that it is US policy that has directly aided these very same radical extremist “enemies.”

Back in 2014, Vice President Joe Biden admitted that in Syria there “was no moderate middle” rebel force that the US and its allies were supporting.  Instead, the Turks, the Saudis, and the Emiratis were “so determined to take down Assad” that they “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against him, except that the people being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” 
In actuality, it was the CIA that was facilitating those weapons transfers and giving intel on which rebels to support.  According to the CIA’s own classified assessments, most of those arms shipments were going to “hard-line Islamic jihadists.”

The rise of the Islamic State was a direct result of this policy.  

By August of 2012 the opposition in Syria had taken a “clear sectarian direction”, “the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq]" were "the major forces driving the insurgency”, and it was “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey" that "support the opposition", according to the best assessments by the Defense Intelligence Agency.  DIA analysts warned that if support for the opposition continues, “there is a possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria,” and that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”
Then DIA head, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, himself validated the credibility of this assessment, and went on to state that it was not the case that the administration had just turned a blind eye to these reports, quite the contrary, it was instead a “willful decision” for the US to continue a policy that they knew was aiding extremists and that would result in the rise of ISIS.  

After all, “this is exactly” what they wanted. 

So when intelligence chiefs testify that Syria is becoming a hotbed for terrorists, it is the result of our very own doing.  Consideration of threats to the public, are very far from concern.

Protection for state power, on the other hand, is a very high priority.

After all, Edward Snowden was forced into exile for revealing that the government was massively spying on its population, calling him a traitor in the process.  When the government calls someone a traitor when they expose state crimes in protection of the publics civil liberties, that shows that in their eyes the population is an enemy that needs to be contained- and thus you have the true rationale for why it is NSA policy to “collect it all.”  

In actuality, we are much less safe from surveillance due to the fact that we are faced with an added threat- that of government tyranny.

So not only is the “threat” that supposedly justifies the takeover of our basic rights incredibly low, not only are federal authorities’ instrumental in fomenting terror plots to justify convictions, not only is our foreign policy fundamentally predicated upon increasing and supporting the threat of terrorism, and not only is it that massive surveillance has never been shown to decrease the threat of terror while it makes us less safe through being overburden with information, we are as well led to believe that we need even more protection, and should turn a blind eye when these kinds of bills are slipped through Congress.

As extensively documented by a coalition of civil liberty groups and security experts, and warned by Senator Ron Wyden, this CISA bill is nothing more than “a surveillance bill by another name.”

It is merely another attempt to justify further government power, wrapped in a mirage of “protection” with no justification behind it- furthering the proof that to the government, the primary enemy that needs to be guarded against, is its own population.

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