Category Archives: Police State/Big Brother USA

Undercover Police Have Regularly Spied On Black Lives Matter Activists in New York

George Joseph reports for The Intercept:

Documents obtained by The Intercept confirm that undercover police officers attended numerous Black Lives Matter protests in New York City between December 2014 and February 2015. The documents also show that police in New York have monitored activists, tracking their movements and keeping individual photos of them on file.

The nearly 300 documents, released by the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Metro-North Railroad, reveal more on-the-ground surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists than previous reports have shown, conducted by a coalition of MTA counterterrorism agents and undercover police in conjunction with NYPD intelligence officers.

This appears to be the first documented proof of the frequent presence of undercover police at Black Lives Matter protests in the city of New York, though many activists have suspected their presence since mass protests erupted there last year over a grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner.

The protest surveillance and use of undercover officers raises questions over whether New York-area law enforcement agencies are potentially criminalizing the exercise of free speech and treating activists like terrorist threats. Critics say the police files seem to document a response vastly disproportionate to the level of law breaking associated with the protests.

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Snowden Documents Reveal AT&T’s “Extreme Willingness to Help” NSA Domestic Spy Program

Missed Calls: Is the NSA lying about its failure to prevent 9/11?

James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory, writes for Foreign Policy:

On March 20, 2000, as part of a trip to South Asia, U.S. President Bill Clinton was scheduled to land his helicopter in the desperately poor village of Joypura, Bangladesh, and speak to locals under a 150-year-old banyan tree. At the last minute, though, the visit was canceled; U.S. intelligence agencies had discovered an assassination plot. In a lengthy email, London-based members of the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, a terrorist group established by Osama bin Laden, urged al Qaeda supporters to “Send Clinton Back in a Coffin” by firing a shoulder-launched missile at the president’s chopper.

The same day that Clinton was supposed to visit Joypura, the phone rang at bin Laden’s operations center in Sanaa, Yemen. To counterterrorism specialists at the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland, the Yemeni number—967-1-200-578—was at the pinnacle of their target list. They monitored the line 24/7. But at the time, the agency now claims, it had no technical way of knowing who was placing the call. The culprit, it would later be revealed, was Khalid al-Mihdhar, one of the men bin Laden had picked months earlier to lead the forthcoming 9/11 attacks. He was calling from his apartment in San Diego, California.

The NSA knew about Mihdhar’s connection to bin Laden and had earlier linked his name with the operations center. Had they known he was now reaching out to bin Laden’s switchboard from a U.S. number, on the day an al Qaeda-linked assassination plot was planned, the agency could have legally obtained an order to tap the San Diego phone line. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in fact, approves eavesdropping on suspected terrorists and spies in the United States. By monitoring Mihdhar’s domestic calls, the agency certainly would have discovered links to the 9/11 hijackers living on the East Coast, including Mohamed Atta.

It’s likely, in other words, that 9/11 would have been stopped in its tracks.’

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Retired General Wesley Clark Calls for Internment Camps for “Radicalized” Americans

Murtaza Hussain reports for The Intercept:

Retired general and former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark on Friday called for World War II-style internment camps to be revived for “disloyal Americans.” In an interview with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts in the wake of the mass shooting in Chatanooga, Tennessee, Clark said that during World War II, “if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war.”

He called for a revival of internment camps to help combat Muslim extremism, saying, “If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”’

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The Rise of the New Crypto War

Eric Geller reports for The Daily Dot:

James B. Comey, Jr., the seventh director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is afraid of the dark.

“The law hasn’t kept pace with technology, and this disconnect has created a significant public safety problem,” Comey said in an Oct. 16, 2014, speech at the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington, D.C., think tank. He called the problem “going dark.”

As more and more criminals presumably “go dark” by encrypting their phones and email accounts, federal agents are finding it increasingly difficult to intercept their communications. The spread of easy-to-use encryption software and the eagerness with which tech companies promote it have deeply troubled the FBI. But on that unusually warm October day, Comey also wanted to vent about another frustration: He felt that the bureau’s proposed solution was being distorted.

“There is a misconception that building a lawful intercept solution into a system requires a so-called ‘backdoor,’ one that foreign adversaries and hackers may try to exploit,” Comey said. “But that isn’t true. We aren’t seeking a backdoor approach. We want to use the front door, with clarity and transparency, and with clear guidance provided by law.”

He only used the word twice, but by strenuously denying that he wanted one, Comey had set off a fierce debate about the secret law-enforcement data-access portals known as backdoors. In the months that followed, Comey, his deputies at the FBI, and his counterparts at other agencies would face relentless questioning and criticism from skeptical members of Congress, exasperated security researchers, and outraged privacy groups. Despite Comey’s protestations, many feared that the agency once known for its disturbing reach and systemic abuses of power in the era of J. Edgar Hoover was seeking a return to that fearsome omniscience in the digital age.

The debate over backdoors has pitted Comey and other national-security officials against America’s biggest tech companies, which have fired off letter after letter warning the government not to undermine encryption and the increasingly powerful security tools built into their products. It has strained relations between an obscure but important government technical body and the security industry that used to consider it a trusted partner. And it has infuriated the cryptography experts and civil-liberties activists who have spent decades beating back government efforts to weaken the encryption that is now vital to all aspects of online life.’

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Hacking Team hack casts spotlight on murky world of state surveillance

Alex Hern reports for The Guardian:

In contrast to many of the private companies performing outsourced aggressive surveillance work for the world’s spy agencies, Hacking Team doesn’t try to hide behind a generic corporate identity. Gamma International, Academi and QintetiQ could be companies doing anything, but Hacking Team – well, it doesn’t take a genius to guess what line of work they are in.

Hacking Team works in the “cybersecurity” industry. That’s “cybersecurity” in the same way that arms manufacturers describe their business as “defence”. It doesn’t provide security at all, really; none of their software will help clients avoid cyberattacks, tighten up their internal networks, or patch flaws in their software. Its main business is offensive hacking.

It sells its Remote Control System (RCS) software to law enforcement and national security agencies around the world, letting them hack into targets’ computers and mobile devices, install backdoors, and monitor them with ease.

The company’s promotional material advertises its abilities: “Hack into your targets with the most advanced infection vectors available. Enter his wireless network and tackle tactical operations with ad-hoc equipment designed to operate while on the move … Remote Control System: the hacking suite for governmental interception. Right at your fingertips.”

But apart from the clarity of its name, Hacking Team was just as opaque as the other companies in its industry. It didn’t disclose its clients, the technology behind its software, or the sort of work it was contracted to do, citing the need for privacy and security. All that changed this week when its own security was compromised, to the tune of 400GB of its data published online.’

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Return to Sender: Glen Ford on Eric Holder Going Back to Covington & Burling

Eric Holder Back to Wall Street-Tied Law Firm After Years of Refusing to Jail Bankers: Interview with Matt Taibbi

‘In the latest sign of the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, recently retired U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is returning home — to the corporate law firm Covington & Burling, where he worked for eight years before becoming head of the Justice Department. During his time at Covington, Holder’s clients included UBS and the fruit giant Chiquita. The law firm’s client list has included many of the big banks Holder failed to criminally prosecute as attorney general for their role in the financial crisis, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup. We speak with Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist with Rolling Stone magazine. “I think this is probably the single biggest example of the revolving door that we’ve ever had,” Taibbi says.’ (Democracy Now!)

A Look at the Inner Workings of NSA’s XKEYSCORE

Micah Lee, Glenn Greenwald and Morgan Marquis-Boire report for The Intercept:

The sheer quantity of communications that XKEYSCORE processes, filters and queries is stunning. Around the world, when a person gets online to do anything — write an email, post to a social network, browse the web or play a video game — there’s a decent chance that the Internet traffic her device sends and receives is getting collected and processed by one of XKEYSCORE’s hundreds of servers scattered across the globe.

In order to make sense of such a massive and steady flow of information, analysts working for the National Security Agency, as well as partner spy agencies, have written thousands of snippets of code to detect different types of traffic and extract useful information from each type, according to documents dating up to 2013. For example, the system automatically detects if a given piece of traffic is an email. If it is, the system tags if it’s from Yahoo or Gmail, if it contains an airline itinerary, if it’s encrypted with PGP, or if the sender’s language is set to Arabic, along with myriad other details.

This global Internet surveillance network is powered by a somewhat clunky piece of software running on clusters of Linux servers. Analysts access XKEYSCORE’s web interface to search its wealth of private information, similar to how ordinary people can search Google for public information.

Based on documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Intercept is shedding light on the inner workings of XKEYSCORE, one of the most extensive programs of mass surveillance in human history.’

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XKEYSCORE: NSA’s Google for the World’s Private Communications

Morgan Marquis-Boire, Glenn Greenwald, and Micah Lee report for The Intercept:

‘One of the National Security Agency’s most powerful tools of mass surveillance makes tracking someone’s Internet usage as easy as entering an email address, and provides no built-in technology to prevent abuse. Today, The Intercept is publishing 48 top-secret and other classified documents about XKEYSCORE dated up to 2013, which shed new light on the breadth, depth and functionality of this critical spy system — one of the largest releases yet of documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA’s XKEYSCORE program, first revealed by The Guardian, sweeps up countless people’s Internet searches, emails, documents, usernames and passwords, and other private communications. XKEYSCORE is fed a constant flow of Internet traffic from fiber optic cables that make up the backbone of the world’s communication network, among other sources, for processing. As of 2008, the surveillance system boasted approximately 150 field sites in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom, Spain, Russia, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, Japan, Australia, as well as many other countries, consisting of over 700 servers.’

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Zero for 40 at Predicting Attacks: Why Do Media Still Take FBI Terror Warnings Seriously?

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR):

CNN: US on Terror Alert[…] As I’ve previously shown, in the media’s rush to hype the threat, the fact of FBI-manufactured—or at least “assisted”—terror plots is left out as a complicating factor altogether, and the viewer is left thinking the FBI arrested 50 actual ISIS sleeper cells.

Nevertheless, the ominous FBI (or Department of Homeland Security) “terror warning” has become such a staple of the on-going, seemingly endless “war on terror” (d/b/a war on ISIS), we hardly even notice it anymore. Marked by a feedback loop of extremist propaganda, unverifiable claims about “online chatter” and fuzzy pronouncements issued by a neverending string of faceless Muslim bad guys, and given PR cover by FBI-contrived “terror plots,” the specter of the impending “attack” is part of a broader white noise of fear that never went away after 9/11. Indeed, the verbiage employed by the FBI in this latest warning —“we’re asking people to remain vigilant”—implies no actual change of the status quo, just an hysterical nudge to not let down our collective guard.

There’s only one problem: These warnings never actually come to fruition. Not rarely, or almost never, but—by all accounts—never. No attacks, no arrests, no suspects at large.’

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U.S. drug cops took a college kid’s life savings and now 13 police departments want a cut

Christopher Ingraham reports for The Washington Post:

In February 2014, Drug Enforcement Administration task force officers at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport seized $11,000 in cash from 24-year-old college student Charles Clarke. They didn’t find any guns, drugs or contraband on him. But, according to an affidavit filled out by one of the agents, the task force officers reasoned that the cash was the proceeds of drug trafficking, because Clarke was traveling on a recently-purchased one-way ticket, he was unable to provide documentation for where the money came from, and his checked baggage had an odor of marijuana.

Clarke’s cash was seized under civil asset forfeiture, where cops are able to take cash and property from people who are never convicted of — and in some cases, never even charged with — a crime. The DEA maintains that asset forfeiture is an important crime-fighting tool: “By attacking the financial infrastructure of drug trafficking organizations world-wide, DEA has disrupted and dismantled major drug trafficking organizations and their supply chains, thereby improving national security and increasing the quality of life for the American public.”

But the practice has become contentious, in part because agencies are generally allowed to keep a share of the cash and property they seize. In cases like Clarke’s, where local and federal agents cooperate on a seizure, federal agencies typically keep at least 20 percent of the assets, while local cops split the remainder among themselves. Critics argue that this creates a profit motive and leads to “policing for profit.”‘

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Think it’s cool Facebook can auto-tag you in pics? So does the government

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

State-of-the-art facial recognition technology, which had been the stuff of hypothetical privacy nightmares for years, is becoming a startling reality. It is increasingly being deployed all around the United States by giant tech companies, shady advertisers and the FBI – with few if any rules to stop it.

In recent weeks, both Facebook and Google launched facial recognition to mine the photos on your phone, with both impressive and disturbing results. Facebook’s Moments app can recognize you even if you cover your face. Google Photos can identify grown adults from decades-old childhood pictures.

Some people might find it neat when it’s only restricted to photos on their phone. But advertisers, security companies and just plain creepy authority figures have also set up their own systems at music festivals, sporting events and even some churches to monitor attendees, which is bound to disturb even those who don’t give a second thought to issues like the NSA’s mass surveillance programs.’

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U.S. private prisons hold inmates longer but no reduction in crime seen, study finds

‘Financial incentives have been found as the main motivation for private prisons to maximize the lengths of inmate stays, but the results are not saving states very much money or reducing crime, according to research done by the University of Wisconsin. Anya Parampil speaks with Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a prison reform activist, about the study.’ (RT America)

NSAC: The Shadow Government Agency That Is Scarier Than the NSA

William M. Arkin reported for PhaseZero at Gawker:

This Shadow Government Agency Is Scarier Than the NSAIf you have a telephone number that has ever been called by an inmate in a federal prison, registered a change of address with the Postal Service, rented a car from Avis, used a corporate or Sears credit card, applied for nonprofit status with the IRS, or obtained non-driver’s legal identification from a private company, they have you on file.

They are not who you think they are. They are not the NSA or the CIA. They are the National Security Analysis Center (NSAC), an obscure element of the Justice Department that has grown from its creation in 2008 into a sprawling 400-person, $150 million-a-year multi-agency organization employing almost 300 analysts, the majority of whom are corporate contractors.’

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All 50 US states fail to meet global police use of force standards, Amnesty report finds

Oliver Laughland and Jamiles Lartey report for The Guardian:

A police officer patrols in Ferguson, Missouri, during protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown.Every state in the US fails to comply with international standards on the lethal use of force by law enforcement officers, according to a report by Amnesty International USA, which also says 13 US states fall beneath even lower legal standards enshrined in US constitutional law and that nine states currently have no laws at all to deal with the issue.

The stinging review comes amid a national debate over police violence and widespread protest following the high-profile deaths of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; 43-year-old Eric Garner in New York; 50-year-old Walter Scott in South Carolina; and 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore – all unarmed black men killed by police within the past 11 months.

Amnesty USA’s executive director, Steven Hawkins, told the Guardian the findings represented a “shocking lack of fundamental respect for the sanctity of human life”.

“While law enforcement in the United States is given the authority to use lethal force, there is no equal obligation to respect and preserve human life. It’s shocking that while we give law enforcement this extraordinary power, so many states either have no regulation on their books or nothing that complies with international standards,” Hawkins said.’

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U.S. government’s high-tech plan for identifying you based on your tattoos

Andrea Peterson reports for The Washington Post:

Tattoos aren’t just for rebels: 1 in 5 American adults have some ink, according to recent polls. And now the government is trying to beef up technology that can automatically identify people by their tattoos.

The National Institute for Standards and Technology, a part of the Commerce Department that has taken the lead on evaluating biometrics, organized a “challenge” in which groups faced off to see who could deliver software and algorithms that identified tattoos most accurately. The event, sponsored by the FBI’s Biometric Center of Excellence, brought together researchers from academia and the private sector to test image recognition technology against five different scenarios.

Groups of researchers, including some from Purdue University and the MITRE Corporation, worked with data sets ranging from hundreds to thousands of images. The results from six organizations were reviewed at a NIST workshop on Monday.’

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Orwell, Huxley and America’s Plunge into Authoritarianism

Henry A. Giroux writes for CounterPunch:

In spite of their differing perceptions of the architecture of the totalitarian superstate and how it exercised power and control over its residents, George Orwell and Aldus Huxley shared a fundamental conviction.  They both argued that the established democracies of the West were moving quickly toward an historical moment when they would willingly relinquish the noble promises and ideals of liberal democracy and enter that menacing space where totalitarianism perverts the modern ideals of justice, freedom, and political emancipation. Both believed that Western democracies were devolving into pathological states in which politics was recognized in the interest of death over life and justice. Both were unequivocal in the shared understanding that the future of civilization was on the verge of total domination or what Hannah Arendt called “dark times.”

While Neil Postman and other critical descendants have pitted Orwell and Huxley against each other because of their distinctively separate notions of a future dystopian society, I believe that the dark shadow of authoritarianism that shrouds American society like a thick veil can be lifted by re-examining Orwell’s prescient dystopian fable 1984 as well as Huxley’s Brave New World in light of contemporary neoliberal ascendancy. Rather than pit their dystopian visions against each other, it might be more productive to see them as complementing each other, especially at a time when to quote Antonio Gramsci “The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. Now is the time of monsters.”

Both authors provide insights into the merging of the totalitarian elements that constitute a new and more hybridized form of authoritarian control, appearing less as fiction than a threatening portend of the unfolding 21st century. Consumer fantasies and authoritarian control, “Big Brother” intelligence agencies and the voracious seductions of privatized pleasures, along with the rise of the punishing state—which criminalizes an increasing number of behaviors and invests in institutions that incarcerate and are organized principally for the production of violence–and the collapse of democratic public spheres into narrow market-driven orbits of privatization–these now constitute the new order of authoritarianism.’

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USA Freedom Act: A Misleading Moment of Celebration for a New Surveillance Program

Normon Soloman writes for Common Dreams:

The morning after final passage of the USA Freedom Act, while some foes of mass surveillance were celebrating, Thomas Drake sounded decidedly glum. The new law, he told me, is “a new spy program.” It restarts some of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act and further codifies systematic violations of Fourth Amendment rights.

Later on Wednesday, here in Oslo as part of a “Stand Up For Truth” tour, Drake warned at a public forum that “national security” has become “the new state religion.” Meanwhile, his Twitter messages were calling the USA Freedom Act an “itty-bitty step” — and a “stop/restart kabuki shell game” that “starts w/ restarting bulk collection of phone records.”

That downbeat appraisal of the USA Freedom Act should give pause to its celebrants. Drake is a former senior executive of the National Security Agency — and a whistleblower who endured prosecution and faced decades in prison for daring to speak truthfully about NSA activities. He ran afoul of vindictive authorities because he refused to go along with the NSA’s massive surveillance program after 9/11.’

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3 Ways USA Freedom Act Fails to Stop FBI Spying on Americans

FBI Behind Mysterious Surveillance Aircraft over US Cities

Jack Gillum, Eileen Sullivan and Eric Tucker report for the Associated Press:

In this photo taken May 26, 2015, a small plane flies near Manassas Regional Airport in Manassas, Va. The plane is among a fleet of surveillance aircraft by the FBI. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.

The planes’ surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.

Aerial surveillance represents a changing frontier for law enforcement, providing what the government maintains is an important tool in criminal, terrorism or intelligence probes. But the program raises questions about whether there should be updated policies protecting civil liberties as new technologies pose intrusive opportunities for government spying.

U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed for the first time the wide-scale use of the aircraft, which the AP traced to at least 13 fake companies, such as FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services. Even basic aspects of the program are withheld from the public in censored versions of official reports from the Justice Department’s inspector general.’

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TSA: Undercover DHS Tests Find Security Failures at US Airports

Justin Fishel, Pierre Thomas, Mike Levine and Jack Date report for ABC News:

An internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration revealed security failures at dozens of the nation’s busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials, ABC News has learned.

The series of tests were conducted by Homeland Security Red Teams who pose as passengers, setting out to beat the system.

According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.’

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Vast Majority of Spying Will Continue Despite Expiration of Patriot Act Provisions: Interview with Marcy Wheeler

‘Marcy Wheeler is the author of Anatomy of Deceit , a short primer on the pre-war intelligence and the CIA Leak. She blogs under the name “emptywheel” at The Next Hurrah and live-blogged the Scooter Libby trial. She has a PhD from University of Michigan relating to politics and journalism. Marcy lives in Michigan, where she works as a business consultant.’ (The Real News)

Glenn Greenwald: As Bulk NSA Spying Expires, Scare Tactics Can’t Stop “Sea Change” on Surveillance

‘The government’s authority to sweep up millions of Americans’ phone records has expired. The practice exposed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden could now face limited reforms as the Senate weighs the USA FREEDOM Act, which would require the government to ask phone companies for a user’s data rather than vacuuming up all the records at once. We get reaction from Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who first reported on Snowden’s revelations.’ (Democracy Now!)

How Private Contractors Have Created a Shadow NSA

Tim Shorrock writes for The Nation:

[…] Over the last 15 years, thousands of former high-ranking intelligence officials and operatives have left their government posts and taken up senior positions at military contractors, consultancies, law firms, and private-equity firms. In their new jobs, they replicate what they did in government—often for the same agencies they left. But this time, their mission is strictly for-profit.

Take Matthew Olsen, who served as general counsel for the NSA and as a top lawyer for the Justice Department before joining the NCTC. He is now the president for consulting services of IronNet Cybersecurity, the company founded last year by Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the longest-
serving director in the history of the NSA. The firm is paid up to $1 million a month to consult with major banks and financial institutions in a “cyber war council” that will work with the NSA, the Treasury Department, and other agencies to deter cyberattacks that “could trigger financial panic,” Bloomberg reported last July.

Some members of this unique class are household names. Most cable-news viewers, for example, are familiar with Michael Chertoff and Michael Hayden, two of the top national-security officials in the Bush administration. In 2009, they left their positions at the Justice Department and the NSA, respectively, and created the Chertoff Group, one of Washington’s largest consulting firms, with a major emphasis on security. Other members are unknown except to insiders.’

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The Counted: The US can’t keep track of how many people its police kill

Gary Younge writes for The Guardian:

‘In her biography of Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston, Valerie Boyd explains why it was so difficult to track Hurston’s whereabouts during the novelist’s early twenties. “In 1911 it was relatively easy for someone, particularly a black woman, to evade history’s recording gaze,” wrote Boyd in Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. “If not legally linked to a man, as daughter or wife, black women did not count in some ways – at least to the people who did the official counting.”

The question of who counts and whom is counted is not simply a matter of numbers. It’s also about power; the less of it you have the less say you have in what makes it to the ledger and what form it takes when it gets there. Collecting information, particularly about people, demands both the authority to gather data and the capacity to keep and transmit it. Those who have both the authority and the capacity need to feel that the people on whom they are keeping tabs on matter.

The Guardian has, through its new investigative project The Counted, developed the capacity to count the number of people killed by the police. We think it matters; the debate that has ensued on the issue of police killings and has been forced onto the national agenda through popular protest will be better informed for having easily accessible data.’

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Zombie Patriot Act Will Keep U.S. Spying – Even if the Original Dies

Shane Harris writes for The Daily Beast:

President Obama and his top national security officials have spent the past few days warning that if intelligence-gathering authorities in the Patriot Act expire just after midnight Sunday—which is now a foregone conclusion—the United States will face a greater risk of a terrorist attack.

That argument is highly debatable—at least, in the short term. Not only does the U.S. government have all sorts of other ways to collect the same kind of intelligence outlined in the Patriot Act, but there’s also a little-noticed back door in the act that would allow U.S. spy agencies gather information in pretty much the same ways they did before.

In other words, there’s a zombie Patriot Act—one that will live on, even if the current version dies.’

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“Analysis paralysis”: Inside NSA, Officials Privately Criticize “Collect It All” Surveillance

Peter Maas reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Inside NSA, Officials Privately Criticize “Collect It All” SurveillanceAs members of Congress struggle to agree on which surveillance programs to re-authorize before the Patriot Act expires, they might consider the unusual advice of an intelligence analyst at the National Security Agency who warned about the danger of collecting too much data. Imagine, the analyst wrote in a leaked document, that you are standing in a shopping aisle trying to decide between jam, jelly or fruit spread, which size, sugar-free or not, generic or Smucker’s. It can be paralyzing.

“We in the agency are at risk of a similar, collective paralysis in the face of a dizzying array of choices every single day,” the analyst wrote in 2011. “’Analysis paralysis’ isn’t only a cute rhyme. It’s the term for what happens when you spend so much time analyzing a situation that you ultimately stymie any outcome …. It’s what happens in SIGINT [signals intelligence] when we have access to endless possibilities, but we struggle to prioritize, narrow, and exploit the best ones.”

The document is one of about a dozen in which NSA intelligence experts express concerns usually heard from the agency’s critics: that the U.S. government’s “collect it all” strategy can undermine the effort to fight terrorism. The documents, provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, appear to contradict years of statements from senior officials who have claimed that pervasive surveillance of global communications helps the government identify terrorists before they strike or quickly find them after an attack.’

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A Sunset Is A Beautiful Thing

Jennifer Granick writes for Forbes:

In the wake of a recent appellate court’s decision that the NSA’s domestic dragnet collection of phone call records is illegal, political support for maintaining the legal provision that the government used to justify the program has all but vanished. For the first time in a dozen years, we have a real chance at ending one of the most abused and misused parts of US surveillance law. Congress should allow section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act to expire.

The U.S. government indiscriminately spies on American citizens for no reason whatsoever and with few if any controls. If you think that should end, you are a surveillance reformer. The only question is: how to reform?

In the next few days, the first of many surveillance reform battles will end. Section 215, the alleged authority under which the NSA has been indiscriminately gathering phone data on Americans, will expire, or sunset on June 1st. Congress is, right now, hotly debating what to do. For practical reasons, the two most likely outcomes are either that the Senate will pass the House’s version of the USA Freedom Act or that the Senate will be unable to agree on USA Freedom and Section 215 will sunset.

Reauthorizing 215 as is is basically off the table. That’s because, in a feat of parliamentary procedure know-how, SenatorRand Paul’s eleven hour floor speech Wednesday made it too late for any reauthorization bill to clear the Senate in time for the House, which has gone on recess, to vote on it.

If Congress does nothing, section 215 will sunset. And this is exactly what reformers should be asking for. The fact is, sunset is the only thing that will definitely stop massive spying under section 215. It won’t stop mass surveillance more generally, but killing the law that NSA and FBI have abused for years is the first step.’

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Indicted: Grand Jury Brings Charges Against Baltimore Police Officers Tied to Freddie Gray Death

‘A grand jury has indicted six Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, clearing the path for a criminal trial in the Maryland courts. Freddie Gray died on April 19 from his injuries suffered in police custody. The indictments came nearly three weeks after Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby first announced her decision to bring criminal charges against the officers. While some of the charges have been amended, the most serious ones — second-degree murder against Officer Caesar Goodson and involuntary manslaughter against four of the officers — remained intact. We speak to longtime Baltimore civil rights attorney A. Dwight Pettit.’ (Democracy Now!)