Category Archives: Police State/Big Brother USA

Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats?

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

‘[…] We’re constantly bombarded with dire warnings about the grave threat of home-grown terrorists, “lone wolf” extremists and ISIS. So intensified are these official warnings that The New York Times earlier this monthcited anonymous U.S. intelligence officials to warn of the growing ISIS threat and announce “the prospect of a new global war on terror.”

But how serious of a threat can all of this be, at least domestically, if the FBI continually has to resort to manufacturing its own plots by trolling the Internet in search of young drifters and/or the mentally ill whom they target, recruit and then manipulate into joining? Does that not, by itself, demonstrate how over-hyped and insubstantial this “threat” actually is? Shouldn’t there be actual plots, ones that are created and fueled without the help of the FBI, that the agency should devote its massive resources to stopping?’

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Why shutting down the Department of Homeland Security would be a good idea

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

[…] While Republicans are again holding a federal agency hostage for a ridiculous reason, they’ve managed to stumble across a good idea in the process: Congress should not just threaten to pull DHS funding, they should abolish it entirely.

DHS is a behemoth and a bureaucratic nightmare that is projected to cost Americans $38.2bn this year. This conglomeration of over 20 government agencies, under one umbrella of dysfunction and secrecy, was mashed together by George W. Bush after 9/11 to form a largely incompetent and corrupt spy machine. Examples of its awfulness abound.’

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American police brutality, exported from Chicago to Guantánamo

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

Police brutality updatedWhen the Chicago detective Richard Zuley arrived at Guantánamo Bay late in 2002, US military commanders touted him as the hero they had been looking for.

Here was a Navy reserve lieutenant who had spent the last 25 years as a distinguished detective on the mean streets of Chicago, closing case after case – often due to his knack for getting confessions.

But while Zuley’s brutal interrogation techniques – prolonged shackling, family threats, demands on suspects to implicate themselves and others – would get supercharged at Guantánamo for the war on terrorism, a Guardian investigation has uncovered that Zuley used similar tactics for years, behind closed police-station doors, on Chicago’s poor and non-white citizens. Multiple people in prison in Illinois insist they have been wrongly convicted on the basis of coerced confessions extracted by Zuley and his colleagues.’

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The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

‘The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.’

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Major Video Game Companies Agree to Share Customer Data with the US Government

Jason Koebler reports for VICE Motherboard:

With or without controversial new legislation such as the ​Cybersecurity Information Sharing and Protection Act, President Obama is doing his best to make sure companies share the information they know about you with the federal government.

On Friday, the president issued a cybersecurity executive order that creates a new framework for “expanded information sharing designed to help companies work together, and work with the federal government, to quickly identify and protect against cyber threats,” according to an emailed fact sheet from the White House.

The ​Sony hack of late last year made the idea of “cyberwar” all too real for many politicians, including Obama, who has spent much of the last two months talking about the need for ​expanded cooperation between the government and private companies. Considering all that rhetoric, Friday’s move doesn’t come as any real surprise.’

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Could U.S. Army use high-tech blimp to spy on Americans?

What We Learned From Ferguson: Interview with Rev. Osagyefo Sekou

‘It’s been 6 months since the tragic shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. What have we learned over the past several months about race relations in America, and what are these so-called “debtor’s prisons activists are now fighting in Ferguson? Rev. Osagyefo Sekou joins Thom to discuss.’ (The Big Picture)

NSA Spy Program So Secret Judge Can’t Explain Why It Can’t Be Challenged

Nadia Prupis reports for Common Dreams:

A federal judge ruled in favor of the National Security Agency in a key surveillance case on Tuesday, dismissing a challenge which claimed the government’s spying operations were groundless and unconstitutional.

Filed in 2008 by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the lawsuit, Jewel v. NSA, aimed to end the agency’s unwarranted surveillance of U.S. citizens, which the consumer advocacy group said violated the 4th Amendment.

The lawsuit also implicated AT&T in the operations, alleging that the phone company “routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA.”That charge was based off of a 2006 document leak by former AT&T technician and whistleblower Mark Klein, who disclosed a collection program between the company and the NSA that sent AT&T user metadata to the intelligence agency.’

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The coming online privacy revolution

Jamie Bartlett has an extract featured from his new book, ‘Orwell vs The Terrorists’ over at Index on Censorship:

Extract from Orwell vs the Terrorists by Jamie Bartlett.Motivated by an honourable desire to protect online freedom and privacy, hundreds of computer scientists and internet specialists are working on ingenious ways of keeping online secrets, preventing censorship, and fighting against centralised control. A veritable army motivated by a desire for privacy and freedom, trying to wrestle back control for ordinary people. This is where the long-term effects will be felt.

Soon there will be a new generation of easy-to-use, auto-encryption internet services. Services such as MailPile, and Dark Mail – email services where everything is automatically encrypted. Then there’s the Blackphone – a smart phone that encrypts and hides everything you’re doing. There are dozens – hundreds, perhaps – of new bits of software and hardware like this that cover your tracks, being developed as you read this – and mainly by activists motivated not by profit, but by privacy. Within a decade or so I think they will be slick and secure, and you won’t need to be a computer specialist to work out how they work. We’ll all be using them.’

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Most US investigative journalists fear their government spies on them

Roy Greenslade reports for The Guardian:

Most of America’s investigative journalists believe their government has spied on them, according to a Pew Research Centre study.

Some 64% of participants in Pew’s survey said that the US government had “probably collected data” on their phone calls, emails and other online communications.

The report surveyed 671 members of an organisation called Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), which includes reporters, producers, editors, data specialists and photojournalists.’

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Is Your Child a Terrorist? U.S. Government Questionnaire Rates Families at Risk for Extremism

Murtaza Hussain, Cora Currier, and Jana Winter report for The Intercept:

Are you, your family or your community at risk of turning to violent extremism? That’s the premise behind a rating system devised by the National Counterterrorism Center, according to a document marked For Official Use Only and obtained by The Intercept.

The document–and the rating system–is part of a wider strategy for Countering Violent Extremism, which calls for local community and religious leaders to work together with law enforcement and other government agencies. The White House has made this approach a centerpiece of its response to terrorist attacks around the world and in the wake of the Paris attacks, announced plans to host an international summit on Countering Violent Extremism on February 18th.’

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Smart TV Innovations Creating Privacy Concerns

Baltimore’s Use Of Private Cameras Part Of Growing Trend

‘The use of private surveillance cameras in police investigations is growing, and Baltimore is one of the cities leading that trend. Baltimore already has almost 700 security cameras across the city. Vinita Nair reports.’ (CBS Evening News)

FTC Warns of the Huge Security Risks in the Internet of Things

Davey Alba reports for Wired:

‘There’s danger lurking in the Internet of Things. At least, that’s the word from the Federal Trade Commission. On Tuesday, the government watchdog released a detailed report urging businesses to take some concrete steps in protecting the privacy and security of American consumers.

‘According to the FTC, 25 billion objects are already online worldwide, gathering information using sensors and communicating with each other over the internet, and this number is growing, with consumer goods companies, auto manufacturers, healthcare providers, and so many other businesses investing in the new breed of connected devices.

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U.S. soldiers train to deal with hostile protesters

You Can Be Persuaded To Confess To An Invented Crime, Study Finds

Nathan Siegel reports for NPR:

Drawing of courtroom scene from the Central Park Five trial‘[…] The Central Park Five had falsely confessed — because, they said, they’d been coerced by police.

Don’t think that it could happen to you? Sorry, but a first-of-its-kind study shows that it could — easily. With a little misinformation, encouragement and three hours, researchers were able to convince 70 percent of the study’s participants that they’d committed a crime.

And the college-aged students who participated in the study didn’t merely confess — they recalled full-blown, detailed experiences, says lead researcher Julia Shaw, a lecturer in forensic psychology from the University of Bedfordshire. The results were “definitely unexpected,” says Shaw, who predicted only a 30 percent rate.’

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Michael Hayden’s Hollow Constitution

Conor Fiedersdorf writes for The Atlantic:

In a speech at Washington and Lee University, Michael Hayden, a former head of both the CIA and NSA, opined on signals intelligence under the Constitution, arguing that what the 4th Amendment forbids changed after September 11, 2001. He noted that “unreasonable search and seizure,” is prohibited under the Constitution, but cast it as a living document, with “reasonableness” determined by “the totality of circumstances in which we find ourselves in history.”

He explained that as the NSA’s leader, tactics he found unreasonable on September 10, 2001 struck him as reasonable the next day, after roughly 3,000 were killed. “I actually started to do different things,” he said. “And I didn’t need to ask ‘mother, may I’ from the Congress or the president or anyone else. It was within my charter, but in terms of the mature judgment about what’s reasonable and what’s not reasonable, the death of 3,000 countrymen kind of took me in a direction over here, perfectly within my authority, but a different place than the one in which I was located before the attacks took place. So if we’re going to draw this line I think we have to understand that it’s kind of a movable feast here.”‘

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Citizens Foot The Bill For Super Bowl Security, NFL Makes Millions

Reject the surveillance state: Overreaction to terrorism is the true threat

Stephen Kinzer writes for The Boston Globe:

Monitors show imagery from security cameras at the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative in New York in 2013.Terrorists are likely to strike again in the United States. Innocent people will be maimed and killed. Afterward there may be another attack, and another one after that. The shooters or bombers will run the gamut, from disoriented misfits to coldly efficient fanatics. All would join the toast that an anarchist offers in “The Secret Agent,” Joseph Conrad’s trenchant dissection of the terrorist mind: “To the destruction of what is!”

Terrorism is a passing phenomenon. It is not likely to become a permanent fact of American life. Nonetheless it is a threatening part of today’s reality, and society must find ways to respond. The greatest danger is not complacency. Worse is the prospect that in our panic over terrorism, we willingly surrender some of the values that make our society worth defending. The true threat to our democracy is not terror, but our reaction to it.’

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U.S. Law Enforcement Deploying Latest Tech For Super Bowl 2015 Security

The Hidden Cameras In NYC’s Subways

Gary Buiso reports for the New York Post:

Ever have the feeling you’re ­being watched? At the Herald Square subway station, it’s because you are — from every angle.

At least six hidden cameras — distinct from the ubiquitous domed video-surveillance cameras easily spotted in stations throughout the city — are located near MetroCard machines, turnstiles and token booths at the 34th Street station as part of a covert MTA surveillance network that monitors commuters.

The cameras date to as far back as the 1990s, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said, but the agency revealed it prefers using other, equally covert “enhanced equipment” — even better cameras “that serve in a number of various capacities.”

The MTA described the cams as “antiquated” — yet some of the cameras found by The Post appeared to be housed in brand-new metal casings.’

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New Police Radars Can ‘See’ Inside Homes

Brad Heath reports for USA Today:

‘At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person’s house without first obtaining a search warrant.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.’

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‘Complete rape’ of government by industry: NSA whistleblower on private contractors in intelligence

‘Kirk Wiebe, an NSA veteran and whistleblower, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about mass surveillance.’ (Going Underground)

Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required

Shaila Dewan reports for The New York Times:

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.’

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Universal Music sues over unauthorized prison mixtapes

NSA reform facing hard sell following Paris terror attacks

Julian Hattem reports for The Hill:

The push to reform the National Security Agency isn’t getting any easier.

After a reform bill was narrowly blocked on the Senate floor late last year, civil libertarians hoped that an upcoming deadline to reauthorize some of the spy agency’s controversial powers would give them another opportunity to force changes.

But the attacks in Paris last week, where gunmen killed 12 at a satirical newspaper and 4 at a kosher market, is making that job harder, and strengthening the resolve of the NSA’s backers.

[…] In the next five months, Congress needs to reauthorize a key portion of the Patriot Act which authorizes the NSA to collect virtually all Americans’ phone records without warrants.’

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How generalised suspicion destroys society

Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet writes for Open Democracy:

Flickr/OliBac. Some rights reserved.[…] Since the revelations of Edward Snowden in June 2013, no one can ignore the alarming extent of mass surveillance. We know that the American National Security Agency (NSA) and the British security services are routinely collecting, processing and storing huge quantities of digital communications. The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) mass-surveillance system “Tempora” has been recently declared perfectly legal. Yet its legitimacy and modus operandi are still highly dubious – and ultimately dangerous especially when members of the executive do not understand the process and its technicalities. These surveillance programmes are enabled by a culture of fear and suspicion, which mutually reinforce each other. Surveillance fosters suspicion and suspicion in return supports the logic of maximisation of surveillance. These practices of surveillance and the underlying logic of anticipation have turned suspicion into legitimate, “actionable” intelligence.’

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The Charlie Hebdo attack was a strike against free speech. So why is the response more surveillance?

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

charlie hebdo pencil‘As politicians drape themselves in the flag of free speech and freedom of the press in response to the tragic murder of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, they’ve also quickly moved to stifle the same rights they claim to love. Government officials on both sides of the Atlantic are now renewing their efforts to stop NSA reform as they support free speech-chilling surveillance laws that will affect millions of citizens that have never been accused of terrorism.

This is an entirely predictable response – as civil liberties advocates noted shortly after Wednesday’s tragic attack, the threat of terrorism has led to draconian laws all over the world over the last decade – but this time around, the speed and breadth by which politicians praised free speech out of one side of their mouths, while moving to curtail rights out of the other, has been quite breathtaking.’

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Snooping FBI Plane ‘Sucking Up Everyone’s Cellphones’

CISPA Is Back… Because Of The Sony Hack, Which It Wouldn’t Have Prevented

Mike Masnick reports for Techdirt:

This isn’t a huge surprise, but Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the NSA’s personal Rep in Congress (NSA HQ is in his district), has announced that he’s bringing back CISPA, the cybersecurity bill designed to make it easier for the NSA to access data from tech companies (that’s not how the bill’s supporters frame it, but that’s the core issue in the bill). In the past, Ruppersberger had a teammate in this effort, Rep. Mike Rogers, but Rogers has moved onto his new career as a radio and TV pundit (CNN just proudly announced hiring him), so Ruppersberger is going it alone this time around.

Not surprisingly, he’s using the Sony Hack as a reason for why this bill is needed.’

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