Category Archives: Police State/Big Brother USA

TSA Checklist Exposed: “Suspicious Signs” Include Throat Clearing, Whistling and “Exaggerated Yawning”

‘Next time you are at an airport, you may not want to gaze down at your feet. But also be careful not to stare at anyone with your eyes wide open. Both of these behaviors are listed on a “suspicious signs” checklist used by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. The Intercept obtained the confidential document from a source concerned about the quality of the program. The document shows how the TSA identifies potential terrorists based on behaviors that it thinks indicate stress or deception, including “fidgeting,” “whistling” and “throat clearing.” The checklist is part of the TSA’s controversial program known as the “Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques.” It employs specially trained officers, known as behavior detection officers, to watch and interact with passengers going through screening. The TSA has trained and deployed thousands of these officers, spending more than $900 million on this program since its inception in 2007. However, the Government Accountability Office has found there is no evidence to back up the claim that “behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.” We are joined by Cora Currier, staff reporter for The Intercept, whose new article co-written with Jana Winter, is “TSA’s Secret Behavior Checklist To Spot Terrorists.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Army Special Operations Command pushes back against martial law claims regarding upcoming Jade Helm 15 exercise

Jon Harper reports for Stars & Stripes:

Jade Helm 15 area of operations. Image Source: Department of DefenseU.S. Army Special Operations Command is pushing back against alarmist claims that an upcoming U.S. military exercise is a preparation for imposing martial law or subduing right-leaning groups and individuals.

Conspiracy theories about the exercise, known as JADE HELM 15, appeared online this week. Some commentators railing against the event referred to an online slide show allegedly created by USASOC, which outlined a special operations exercise slated to take place across multiple states, outside the confines of U.S. military bases. In the slide show, a map of the southwest region of the United States labels Texas and other territory as “hostile” or “insurgent pocket.” The document also refers to coordination with law enforcement agencies.

[…] Army Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, a USASOC spokesman, confirmed that there is an upcoming exercise called Jade Helm 15 which is scheduled to take place this summer at locations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, California and Nevada. But he denied the event is preparation for some sort of military takeover.’

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Is using encryption suspicious? Half of Americans say yes, according to Pew

Andrea Peterson reports for The Washington Post:

Surveillance Programs Prompt Some to Change the Way They Use TechnologyNearly two years after former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of extensive government surveillance programs, a Pew Research report suggests that the news has prompted some Americans to change their approach to online privacy.

The group surveyed about 500 adult Americans, finding that nearly 90 percent of them had heard about government surveillance programs and more than a third of those aware of the programs “have taken at least one step to hide or shield their information from the government,” the report said.

Though the report found that a majority of Americans are skeptical of government surveillance programs, it also found very few are taking the extra step of encrypting the content of their e-mails. In fact, half of those surveyed said using encryption software gives the government enough suspicion to monitor a U.S. citizen’s communications.’

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The psychology of mass government surveillance: How do the public respond and is it changing our behaviour?

Chris Chambers reports for The Guardian:

Amnesty International has today reported the outcome of a Yougov survey in 15,000 people across 13 countries, studying for the first time international views of mass surveillance and whether the public believe it is changing their own behaviour.

[…] Just how accepting are people of surveillance in the first place? In short, not very. Across all 13 countries, there was no majority support for surveillance – only 26% of people, overall, agreed that the government should monitor the communications and Internet activity of its own citizens, while a similar number (29%) felt their government should monitor overseas citizens. Only 17% of respondents believed their government should monitor everybody – citizens, foreign nationals, and foreign countries – while twice as many (34%) believed their government should never monitor any of these groups.’

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The Wolf Is Guarding the Hen House: The Government’s War on Cyberterrorism

John W. Whitehead writes:

The game is rigged, the network is bugged, the government talks double-speak, the courts are complicit and there’s nothing you can do about it.”—David Kravets, reporting for Wired

Nothing you write, say, text, tweet or share via phone or computer is private anymore. As constitutional law professor Garrett Epps points out, “Big Brother is watching…. Big Brother may be watching you right now, and you may never know. Since 9/11, our national life has changed forever. Surveillance is the new normal.”

This is the reality of the internet-dependent, plugged-in life of most Americans today.

A process which started shortly after 9/11 with programs such as Total Information Awareness (the predecessor to the government’s present surveillance programs) has grown into a full-fledged campaign of warrantless surveillance, electronic tracking and data mining, thanks to federal agents who have been given carte blanche access to the vast majority of electronic communications in America. Their methods completely undermine constitution safeguards, and yet no federal agency, president, court or legislature has stepped up to halt this assault on our rights.’

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Judge to U.S. Government: ‘National Security’ Isn’t a ‘Magic Word’ That Allows Constitutional Rights Violations

Lindsay Nash writes for the American Civil Liberties Union:

‘[…] In the past, DHS generally did not detain families who arrived in the United States seeking asylum. Most eligible individuals were released if they could show that they were not a flight risk or a danger to the community. However, beginning in the summer of 2014, DHS started detaining families in large numbers as part of an “aggressive deterrence strategy” intended to send a message to other Central Americans that if they sought refuge in the United States, they would be similarly punished. Under this policy, even if families demonstrated that they had a credible fear of persecution and were neither flight risks nor dangerous, DHS refused to consider them for release and kept them locked up.

Sound cruel? It is. It’s also unnecessary and illegal.’

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Data and Goliath: Bruce Schneier on the Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World

‘Leading security and privacy researcher Bruce Schneier talks about about the golden age of surveillance and his new book, “Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World.” The book chronicles how governments and corporation have built an unprecedented surveillance state. While the leaks of Edward Snowden have shed light on the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices, less attention has been paid to other forms of everyday surveillance — license plate readers, facial recognition software, GPS tracking, cellphone metadata and data mining.’ (Democracy Now!)

ECHELON – CBS 60 Minutes report from February 27, 2000

‘Patriot Act 2.0’? Senate Cybersecurity Bill Seen as Trojan Horse for More Spying

Nadia Prupis reports for Common Dreams:

cisa.jpgThe U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee approved a cybersecurity bill during a secret session on Thursday, marking the next step in a process that critics warn will nefariously expand the government’s already substantial surveillance powers.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which passed by 14-1 vote, would ostensibly protect against large-scale data thefts of private consumer information, exemplified by recent hacks of Target, Sony, and Home Depot. But critics—including the lone dissenting voice on the committee Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or.)—say it would open the door for continued invasive and unlawful government spying operations.

Although Wyden denounced the measure as “a surveillance bill by another name,” his opposition was unable to stop the proposal from being approved by the committee. The bill, which reportedly underwent a dozen changes during the meeting, will next go to the full Senate for debate. Its passage in committee, however, means it has already succeeded where other recent cybersecurity proposals have failed.’

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The Orwellian Re-Branding of “Mass Surveillance” as Merely “Bulk Collection”

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

‘Just as the Bush administration and the U.S. media re-labelled “torture” with the Orwellian euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” to make it more palatable, the governments and media of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance are now attempting to re-brand “mass surveillance” as “bulk collection” in order to make it less menacing (and less illegal). In the past several weeks, this is the clearly coordinated theme that has arisen in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the last defense against the Snowden revelations, as those governments seek to further enhance their surveillance and detention powers under the guise of terrorism.

This manipulative language distortion can be seen perfectly in yesterday’s white-washing report of GCHQ mass surveillance from the servile rubber-stamp calling itself “The Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament (ISC)”(see this great Guardian Editorial this morning on what a “slumbering” joke that “oversight” body is). As Committee Member MP Hazel Blears explained yesterday (photo above), the Parliamentary Committee officially invoked this euphemism to justify the collection of billions of electronic communications events every day.

The Committee actually acknowledged for the first time (which Snowden documents log ago proved) that GCHQ maintains what it calls “Bulk Personal Datasets” that contain “millions of records,” and even said about pro-privacy witnesses who testified before it: “we recognise their concerns as to the intrusive nature of bulk collection.” That is the very definition of “mass surveillance,” yet the Committee simply re-labelled it “bulk collection,” purported to distinguish it from “mass surveillance,” and thus insist that it was all perfectly legal.’

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Wikipedia Sues NSA Over Dragnet Internet Surveillance

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

‘Wikipedia is suing the NSA over surveillance programs that involve tapping internet traffic en masse from communications infrastructure in the U.S. in order to search it for intelligence purposes.

The lawsuit argues that this broad surveillance, revealed in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, violates the First Amendment by chilling speech and the open exchange of information, and that it also runs up against Fourth Amendment privacy protections.

“The surveillance that we’re challenging gives the government virtually unfettered access to U.S. communications and the content of those communications,” said Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is bringing the litigation on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, and a group of human rights and media organizations including The Nation magazine and Amnesty International, who say that their sensitive overseas communications are imperiled by the NSA’s snooping.’

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Police killed more than twice as many people as reported by US government

Tom McCarthy reports for The Guardian:

Eric Garner Mike Brown mural‘An average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the US went uncounted in the country’s most authoritative crime statistics every year for almost a decade, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The first-ever attempt by US record-keepers to estimate the number of uncounted “law enforcement homicides” exposed previous official tallies as capturing less than half of the real picture. The new estimate – an average of 928 people killed by police annually over eight recent years, compared to 383 in published FBI data – amounted to a more glaring admission than ever before of the government’s failure to track how many people police kill.

The revelation called into particular question the FBI practice of publishing annual totals of “justifiable homicides by law enforcement” – tallies that are widely cited in the media and elsewhere as the most accurate official count of police homicides.’

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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