Who Cashes In When the Government Spies On You?
by Carlton Pruitt
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Scanning a couple of our news outlets this morning, we came across a depressing article about immigration reform and its impact on Obamacare. Like all government programs that fall under the web of the welfare state, the problems it creates seems to grow as more and more layers are added.
In an attempt to fix the broken immigration system our country currently has in place, it's projected that the potential plans could increase health care spending by over $100 billion over the next 10 years. These are the unintended consequences of a 2,000-page piece of legislation that no one bothered to read prior to making it the law of the land.
Not the best way to start the morning...
We'll come back to the problems of Obamacare and what that means for you, the taxpayer, in the future. Right now, though, you have other things to worry about. Things that might be buzzing about 10,000 feet overhead as you read this.
That's right. We're talking about drones. In particular, drones in the U.S.
Remember when the White House made a big deal about how domestic use of drones would be very limited? And that they'd never be used to spy on American citizens? Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, admitted yesterday that his agency is in possession of a number of unmanned drones. When asked about the rules in place that govern their use, however, Mueller admitted that they're still in the process of figuring them out.
It's always nice to find out that our government is making up rules as they go along, and in most cases, only after they've been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. But in the world we're living in, where each new scandal isn't as shocking as the one before, it's slowly becoming the new norm in D.C.
Which brings us today's article by Bernard Chazelle. Reading through all the defenses of the NSA's surveillance program, one of the more common ones is that the government has access to only your metadata. And no personal information gets attached to those data.
It's a nice talking point, and, judging by how much it's repeated by the government's most vocal supporters in the media, one that seems to be working well. But it works only if you don't look beyond the initial claims. And that's what Chazelle did. He shows why this metadata claim is just a ruse to placate the majority of Americans, who normally don't get past the headlines or take for face value what the government (in particular the White House) says.
But most importantly, he shows who really benefits from this program. Who cashed in when the government traded away your freedoms without ever bothering to tell you.
Introducing Bernard Chazelle's... The NSA and the One Percent
Daniel Ellsberg, a man well versed in the matter, calls it "the most important leak in American history." The scale of the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program is, indeed, staggering. Not to put too fine a point on it, if your phone records and Internet clicks are not already in federal custody, rest assured they soon will be. To add insult to injury, it might all be legal. A 29-year-old former Booz Allen Hamilton employee, Edward Snowden, has risked his freedom to expose the mischief.
Not everyone was pleased. Ranting like a mad preacher, New York Times columnist David Brooks called it a betrayal no fewer than 10 times in one column. Wagging the mighty finger of pop psychology, the Times' self-anointed Mother Superior blamed Snowden's betrayals on a life "unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society," i.e., untutored in the Brooksian view of authority as a call to blind worship.
To others, the episode was a discomfiting reminder that the mantle of heroism can make cruel demands on those willing to put it on -- especially the young. Snowden has forced open a much-needed debate, one that President Obama openly welcomes. And what better way to echo the sentiment than to have his National Intelligence director, James Clapper, lie under oath to pre-empt any such debate?
Not that Snowden's revelation did more than turn suspicion into confirmation. Ordinary Americans might not have suspected the cosmic scope of the snoopery, but terrorists, a breed to whom suspicion comes naturally, surely did.
Indeed, the Pentagon has made no secret of its plan to expand its Global Information Grid past the "yottabyte" mark. How big is that? Think of a giant vacuum cleaner designed to Hoover up the equivalent of 1 million DVDs for every human being on Earth. Now ask yourself: Why would anyone need so much storage if not for trawling every critter that swims the waterways of the Internet: emails, tweets, pics, vids, chats, etc.?
The NSA's claim to be merely after your metadata (email addresses, phone numbers, durations, etc.) is preposterous. Metadata alone could never use up more than one-millionth of the storage capacity. The NSA has hopped on the Big Data bandwagon or, as it were, the All Data supertrain.
Any terrorist aware of the hazards of Big Data knows that spurious correlations increase faster than data size and so will pray that the NSA keeps a diary of all life forms on the planet. If you're a needle hiding in a haystack, all you want is more hay, like, say, a yottabyte worth of it. Bad guys will love Big Data. Social activists not so much. If the next J. Edgar Hoover doesn't fancy the cut of your jib, he'll come after you, file servers blazing, with more details about your past than you'll ever remember.
No need to be unduly paranoid, though.
The craven Chinese may have hacked into the Obama and Romney campaigns, but thank God no American president would ever break into the party headquarters of his rival. Thank God the FBI would never spread lies about a university administrator. Thank God it would never pressure a civil rights leader to commit suicide. Let's not surrender to cynicism and imagine that anything like McCarthyism could ever happen in the United States. We don't call it the Land of the Free for nothing.
But what's freedom good for if you're dead?
Some say that global surveillance is the price to pay for staying alive. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein and her House counterpart, Mike Rogers, credit Big Brother for the capture of Najibullah Zazi and David Headley, two genuine nasties. Alas, if that's the best our two NSA cheerleaders have to offer, they might as well pack up their pom-poms and go home. A former British foreign office minister dispatched their boast as an illusion: Zazi's name was caught by British Intelligence the old-fashioned way; likewise, the arrest of David Headley, who was involved in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, came in the wake of a British tip-off of the conventional kind.
Former NSA surveillance huncho William Binney characterizes the entire spying dragnet as useless. Acting on a Russian tip, the NSA did record phone calls of the Tsarnaev brothers before the Boston bombings, and we all know how effective that was. Almost as helpful as the interceptions of the phone calls that bin Laden's chief of operations made right before Sept. 11.
The only attacks the Feds seem good at preventing are those it instigates. All-time favorites include the sting operation that netted the crackerjack squad of terrorists whose first step to Armageddon was to order al-Qaida boots from an FBI informant. (Who would want to meet the 72 virgins with the wrong shoes on?)
Despite our best efforts to create new terrorists by vaporizing their children with our drones, they still remain a rare breed. Matthew Yglesias estimates the number of lives saved annually by airport security measures as approximately zero. Saving zero lives does not come cheap, mind you. Body scanning alone has cost the U.S. taxpayer billions of dollars. No sooner was he done running Homeland Security than Michael Chertoff cashed in the big bucks at Rapiscan Systems by leading the cheers for full-body scans.
This revolving-door pathology afflicting the Beltway can appear paradoxical. Ever wonder why the NSA outsources work that falls squarely within its core competencies? No surprise if the agency contracts out its catering, plumbing and lawn mowing, but... information technology?
The NSA employs thousands of IT experts, from seasoned sysadmins to world-class cryptographers. Whatever Snowden did for the agency as a Booz Allen employee, the NSA could do it in-house more cheaply. So why doesn't it? The answer to this $75 billion question is money, gobs of it floating right under the nose of public servants cruelly kept by law from getting a piece of the action. The revolving door is there to release the tension.
It is a legal mechanism for funneling billions of taxpayer dollars into a handful of private wallets. Contractors serve stints in government for the same reasons thieves case a bank before robbing it. There, they learn to operate the moola pipeline and keep it flowing into the right pockets.
Booz Allen Hamilton revolves doors better than most. The aforementioned spook-in-chief, James Clapper, is a proud alum. One of his predecessors as National Intelligence director, Mike McConnell, is now vice chairman of the company. Former CIA director James Woolsey was a Booz Allen vice president.
The company is majority-owned by the Carlyle Group, the private equity giant with long ties to the Bush family. Carlyle has syphoned a cool $2 billion from Booz Allen, which itself derives 98% of its revenues from the U.S. taxpayer. This is crony capitalism at its finest. Being perhaps a bit too obvious, the scheme requires a bevy of propagandists to hide the true motives behind a veil of fear.
To point out that lightning out-kills terrorism will earn you a stern reminder that "we must kill them over there so they don't kill us over here." The propagandists keep at the ready a whole Ptolemaic jumble of rhetorical epicycles, with, at its center, the winning slogan: "Be scared. Be very scared!" And thus, with Monty Python-esque clarity can The New York Times' Tom Friedman urge us to surrender our privacy now so a new terrorist attack does not force us to surrender it later.
Politicians play along with this charade for fear of being seen as soft on terrorism, some of them hoping that one day, they too will hitch a ride on the gravy train. President Obama gives the spooks a blank check to buy himself an insurance policy: a means to deflect the blame if and when terror strikes.
Don't count on any pushback from the mainstream media. Terrorism makes good copy and, like a four-leaf clover, gets hyped in proportion to its rarity. Thriving on its incestuous relationship with power, the corporate media have blinded themselves to the very idea of a conflict of interest. When someone hinted at a sweet deal between Chertoff and Rapiscan on Hardball, a "shocked, shocked" Chris Matthews called it slander.
No one disputes the need to keep secret tabs on terrorists and monitor their communications. What's at issue is the existence of a cyber-panopticon handing over all details of everyone's private life to government agencies with no meaningful oversight. The current outrage over the NSA is rightly focused on its Orwellian angle. Yet to sate the vengeful hunger of latter-day J. Edgar Hoovers doesn't alone explain the rise of the surveillance state.
An important driver is the dominant social engineering project of our time: the upward redistribution of wealth to the "1%." In the case at hand, the project was given a boost by the co-occurrence of two trends: the commodification of Big Data technology and the post-Sept. 11 resurgence of American paranoia. When your enemy hates you for your freedoms, don't you want a supersized Big Brother by your side? But here's the twist: The attendant growth in defense spending ran smack against the neoliberal push for smaller government.
The solution? The rise of a bloated industry of overpaid private contractors feeding off the public trough. Bravo, 1%, the maneuver was brilliant!
As his antsy critics swarm out to smear him, Edward Snowden faces a bleak future. He didn't just expose the powerful; he humiliated them. For that unforgivable sin, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen called Snowden a "cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood." (As a hack cross-dressing as a journalist, he would know.) House Speaker John Boehner labeled the young whistle-blower a traitor.
Were he to be extradited to the U.S., Snowden would face a long prison sentence. Perhaps President Obama will indulge his forgotten love of whistle-blowers and pardon him as penance for letting the DOJ prosecute more whistle-blowers than all of his predecessors combined. Perhaps he will bestow the Medal of Freedom upon Glenn Greenwald for shining light on government scandals. Perhaps the NSA will turn its Fort Meade headquarters into a soup kitchen...
-- Bernard Chazelle
Article originally posted here.
[Ed. note: Fifty years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the country of the threat of the military-industrial complex. Who would have guessed that that threat would spawn even more complexes to worry about? The surveillance-industrial complex is just starting to pick up steam.
When the government says that these programs are necessary to keep us safe from the threats they can't really tell you about (because of national security reasons, of course), there's really not much you can do. All the while, a small group of well-connected cronies reap all the benefits.
It's business as usual in the nation's capital.
But just because our elected leaders are trading away your privacy so their buddies can collect their government contracts doesn't mean you have to just sit there and let them. They might have conspired to tap into your phone calls and snoop through your emails, but now that you know the truth, you have the chance to take back control.
If you're forced to give them your data, make sure they don't understand a single word they receive. That means taking the necessary steps to lock down and secure your computer, as well as any other computer you might use. It means changing the way you release personal information on the Internet.
And that's what we're covering in our upcoming report, Make Yourself Invisible to the NSA... as Well as All Those Other Snoops, Sneaks, & Goons Who Would Simply Love to Plunder Your Privacy!
If the government insists on taking away your privacy, insist on making it as difficult as possible for them to do it. Stay tuned for more details on how you can claim a free copy.]
"Truth, or just plain honest facts," laments Club member Jerry C., "are hard to come by in this world. So when someone shines a flashlight into a dark, smelly government corner and exposes something the government did not want exposed, well, I for one am grateful to have my suspicious nature vindicated. Each new president inherits a mantle of power that is not in human nature to reject or rescind. Which is too bad, because the only way to get back some of our freedoms is for the whole hive to crash down around our ears. Which it will do. There is no turning back..."
LFT: While we hope it never comes to that, it's always good to be prepared.
"If you have not done so," writes in one Club member, "please establish a 'working' relationship with a local doc. The broken system will be brought to its knees, with many left out in the nether regions of quick care centers. Some of my golf partners are talking about closing their offices to new patients; they worry about patient load, (further) reduced compensation below costs to deliver, and IRS sanctions."
LFT: President Obama and the other supporters of his health care overhaul must have forgotten to mention these problems when they were out selling it to the American public...
Carlton Pruitt ministers the gospel to the Los Angeles area. Formerly a Hollywood actor (SAG member)and junk removal expert he now spends most of his time studying the scriptures, writing articles, hymns and poems and doing street preaching.
See his videos on http://www.youtube.com Type LAStreetPreacher in the search bar. CONTACT at Carlton2061@gmail.
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