Friday, June 7, 2013
INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS COMPLICIT WITH NSA
A BROODING CYNYX OP - ED
Is your Internet Service Provider part of this invasive program?
From The Brooding Cynyx Editorial Board
(Friday June 7, 2013 New York, New York) Call it what you will; metadata sharing, data mining, data vacuuming or cyber-spying, the federal government has broken their trust with the American people. It is that simple.
As intelligence and counter-terrorism professionals often say, their successes and victories may never be known to the public. The nature of their operations and missions are usually so highly classified that their very existence may not be known for decades after the fact. In the main lobby of the CIA Headquarters in Langley Virginia, on one marble wall are carved several dozen black stars each representing a CIA Officer who lost his or her life in the service of their country. Not even in the CIA HQ are their names and exploits easily determined. These are the men and women who function sometimes for an entire career in anonymity; Officers, Analysts, Operatives, Paramilitary Personnel, members of the Clandestine Service whose names we will never know. Some of this secrecy is for “operational” purposes, some of it simply because these CIA personnel were tasked with orders and missions that need not be known.
We are staunch supporters of the “War on Terror” although President Obama has made that an antiquated phrase. By whatever name it is designated we are indeed engaged globally with groups and nation/states intent on doing as much harm to America, her citizens and interests as they possibly can. This is a war fought in the shadows and, given the technological sophistication of today, it is fought as much in cyberspace as it is in back alleys, rugged mountains, wind-swept deserts, dense jungles and teeming far off cities were our enemies live, train, plot and hide. Our military superiority has forced our enemies to fight us asymmetrically; employing methods and means, tactics and strategies of unconventional warfare. In many profound ways this new type of warfare is more challenging than the conventional wars we have fought throughout our history. This is a new day and the events of September 11, 2001 ushered in new age in warfare with challenges, risks, and perils never before confronted. The nature of the beast we fight today is in many ways exponentially more lethal armed with potential capabilities that could not have been fully appreciated prior to 9-11-01.
As New Yorker’s we know firsthand the brutality of what a small cadre of well financed zealots can perpetrate and since that bright, sunny Tuesday in September 2001, we have witnessed the increasing creativity that asymmetry dictates as our foes only effective ways and means by which to engage us. Our Special Forces and combined military might quickly vanquished the Taliban and al Qaeda by the end of 2001 yet they remain reconfigured, smaller cells less centrally controlled yet as determined and clever as ever. Our overwhelming conventional force decimated the Iraqi Army only to be held to a years long semi-standoff with insurgents armed with primitive Improvised Explosive Devises (IAD’s) and determination. Our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Forces are the absolute best the world has ever seen. But, all our military might can be at least partially, temporarily mitigated by an enemy that has nothing to lose.
Over the past two days Americans have learned that some of our government’s intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism initiatives have been more far-reaching domestically than has ever before been admitted. These are alarming revelations on many levels; legally, morally, and constitutionally. If anything, as Americans we hold our Rights very close to our hearts and any hint that they are somehow being infringed, especially without our knowledge and consent, creates a collective sense of distrust, ill-will, and justifiable anger.
Actually, the scale and scope of the government’s “Hoovering” efforts at sucking up all sorts of digital data reported to have allegedly not been focused on Americans, is now being widely reported to have indeed included Americans in this massive accumulation operation. Major Internet Service Providers including Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Skype, Facebook and Apple have all issued press releases this evening denying having any knowledge of or participation in any sort of data sharing with any government law enforcement, intelligence or military entity. Some of their denials were so carefully crafted with very precise language that it is not a great leap to interpret them as de facto admissions. Likely, by this time Sunday the steady individual drips from these leaks will have turned into a gusher of epic proportions.
Here in New York City we have become accustomed, perhaps not pleased, but certainly accustomed to our “surveillance society”; the ubiquitous NYPD camera towers and the closed circuit cameras that number in the tens of thousands throughout our City are the perpetual “eyes in the sky”; we are never out of range of some camera for too long. We accept this because we have lived through a few attacks and have had some potentially catastrophic plots foiled thanks to the hard work of NYPD and their Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Units. For each dastardly plot we know to have been interrupted there are likely a dozen we were never aware of. New York City will always be in terrorists eyes a “target rich environment” but we all have made it a much “harder target”; our individual and collective awareness cannot be overstated.
Surveillance cameras are one thing; after all we’ve been captured by cameras at ATM’s, gas stations, department and convenience stores for many years. Actually, several recent events have demonstrated the efficacy of these cameras. However, the revelations that hit the headlines yesterday are by several orders of magnitude much more disturbing to say the least. From the initial report that Verizon, with over 98 million subscribers has been turning over logs of “metadata” every day to the NSA was troubling enough. But, on top of that, the revelation that the NSA has been directly tapping in to the “central servers” of the largest Internet Service Providers (ISP’S) giving the NSA access to a wealth of private and personal data about their users, in a comparative sense, makes the Verizon arrangement look benign. The NSA has been amassing a “mega database” by capturing everything from individual computers unique Internet address, and everything the user enters from search terms, browser information, downloads, e-mails, photographs, and all the digital media that defines so much of our lives and constitutes the very infrastructure of global networks from banks, insurers, lenders, libraries, universities; literally any entity with an Internet presence. This arrangement seems to defy not only some of the bedrock elements of our Bill of Rights but of centuries of legal precedent that has guaranteed – yes, guaranteed - Americans freedom from illegal search and seizure, guilt by association, and the arbitrary suspension of habeas corpus and due process under the law.
The Brooding Cynyx have long been vigorous and vocal supporters of most efforts of vigilance in our struggle against global extremists and terrorism. We have been ardent supporters of the law enforcement community, particularly the best LEA in the world, the NYPD whose members have been toiling tirelessly to protect our City. We have largely supported the CIA in their intelligence gathering operations overseas, been united behind our valiant troops efforts in Afghanistan and have never ceased to be aware of the fact that America is indeed engaged in what will likely be a decades long cat and mouse game with those bent on inflicting death and destruction here on our shores. Looking over our six years of posts one can easily determine where we have stood and continue to stand on this matter of safety and security; life and death.
That said, now we must differ with our government, now we are angered and outraged by the startling revelations regarding the egregious infringements on our privacy. We have grave concerns about how the information sucked up by the huge NSA apparatus will be used and from what other as of yet revealed sources they collect it. That so much of our personal digital information now comprises a mammoth database is more than disturbing; it is a very frightening fact of life. It is not possible to trust that such databases will not be used by other government agencies for reasons tangentially, if at all, related to national security. Those who argue that they have nothing to hide so they are untroubled having the government know so much about their private lives are either naive or just foolish.
Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2013 © All Rights Reserved
Thursday, June 6, 2013
PRESIDENT DEFENDS NSA PROGRAM
BIPARTISAN OUTRAGE AND SUPPORT
The National Security Agency campus in Ft. Meade, Maryland
TAGS: NSA METADATA COLLECTION, VERIZON TURNING OVER DATA DAILY, RIGHT TO PRIVACY
THE ‘PRISM’ PROGRAM, THE 4th AMENDMENT, FISA COURT, PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE
STATUTORY AUTHORITY, CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT, DUE PROCESS UNDER LAW
(Thursday June 6, 2013 Ft. Meade, Maryland) The tinted reflective glass that clads the building of the National Security Agency (NSA) building are the most visible occluding layer of a larger set of protections that keep the ultra-secret work of this agency from the public. By its defining mission when it was first established and by numerous presidential directives and legislative maneuvers, it has long been the “house of secrets”. What has been known is that the NSA owns and operates the most advanced computer hardware and software in the world and its capabilities have long been rumored to be “God-like”. As of yesterday a layer of that highly guarded secrecy was rudely slipped off when a report in The Guardian newspaper revealed that the NSA has been collecting “metadata” from one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, Verizon. The reaction is Washington DC has been oddly mixed with some Democrats supporting the data sharing efforts while many usually hawkish Republicans see it as a tremendous infringement on the most basic of our Constitutional rights.
As has by now been widely reported by media outlets nationwide, this program has been up and running since 2006 and was approved by Congressional National Security Committee’s and strongly advocated by the Cheney/Bush administration. This revelation comes at a time when Americans seem to have grown weary of the “war on terror” and President Obama has recently announced his alterations to and recalibrating of this country’s efforts to defend itself against terrorism. To many citizens the uncovering of this program is proof positive that in the name of the war on terror many of our most basic and valued rights to privacy have been obliterated. Today, 12 years after the broad sweeping bundle of legislation collectively known as The Patriot Act was quickly enacted in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, profound questions remain unanswered regarding the balance between National Security, anti-terrorism and intelligence gathering initiatives and our rights as America citizens to be free from what appear to be Orwellian tactics restricting our rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and due process under the law.
INTERMEDIATE ACTS, PERPETUAL ACCESS
Almost all Americans alive today can recall vividly the images of September 11, 2001 and how they felt. In those shaky days immediately following and the subsequent weeks thereafter, most Americans seemed to share the common thought that our government must do whatever it takes to avoid another terrorist attack on our soil. We wanted revenge, expressed a virulent strain of retribution and supported whatever the Cheney/Bush administration told us they needed to do to protect us. A catastrophic event of the magnitude of 9-11-01 was for brief moment in our history provided a galvanizing, uniting degree of support for whatever means needed to be employed to protect us and kill or capture those who perpetrated the unprecedented attack on our soil. Little did we realize that such blanket acceptance of the government’s actions was the first in a longer series of deals with the devil we would sign. Many of the sanctions imposed in various sectors of our lives, announced as temporary have now become permanent if not perpetual. As former NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake told Salon Magazine today, ‘…total, blanket surveillance is “a cancer on the body politic” that will be very hard to remove indeed.’
Gus Hunt, the Chief Technical Officer for the CIA told a New York audience in a speech earlier this years that, “The value of any piece of information is only known when you can connect it with something else that arrives at a future point in time … Since you can’t connect dots you don’t have, it drives us into a mode of, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever.” In essence Hunt admitted that the data collection program which is no doubt not limited to Verizon’s cooperation with the NSA, has been going on for a long time and will likely not, if ever end. Indeed George Orwell has proven to be eerily prophetic. But, the question obvious dangles just above the details of the debate, is such metadata collection necessary for our national security? One might be surprised by the wide range of answers to this questions and where they are coming from.
“CRITICAL TOOL” OR “OUTRAGEOUS BREECH”?
Supporters of the program such as Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein of California, who claims she has been aware of the programs existence since 2006, has called it a “critical tool” is our efforts to secure the country from terrorism. She has some bipartisan colleagues sharing her view. Republican opponents in both the House and Senate have been highly critical of the program as has the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) an atypical ally of Republicans. There is sufficient controversy to go around with members from both sides of the political divide finding validation of some of their own core beliefs. Fundamentally, no matter how one perceives it, this program and some of the other covert intelligence gathering methods in use today do present as unambiguous assaults on the 4th Amendment.
Not too long ago it was necessary for a government law enforcement of intelligence agency to make a request from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court to conduct narrowly defined data accumulation from a specific source or sources. Legal experts and scholars well versed in Constitutional and FISA law have been hard pressed to say that the program does not infringe on our right to privacy or the 14th Amendments assurance of due process. Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley stated in a news release earlier today, “This bulk data collection is being done under interpretations of the law that have been kept secret from the public. Significant FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court opinions that determine the scope of our laws should be declassified.” What is obvious by now is that this will now become a major issue in political discourse and will not quickly drift away as so many crises, real, imagined and implied, tend to in Washington DC.
Just to be clear about exactly what Verizon and other telecoms have been turning over to the NSA, we must look at what metadata is. Metadata, simply put, is the same information that appears itemized on our phone bills. It lists numbers called, duration of call and not much more than that. The federal government is still required to make an appeal to the FISA Court if they intend to wiretap – secretly monitor and record – individual’s phone calls. As the system the NSA is using now, there is no way to record the hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of phone calls originating in and received in the United States.
PRISM: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
A leaked NSA training Power Point slide illustrating the basic template of PRISM
In a late breaking development tonight, The Guardian and Washington Post are reporting that the metadata operation is just one among many. In an operation code named “PRISM”, the NSA has secured the cooperation of the seven largest Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to tap directly into their main “central” servers. This is an ominously graver concern than the metadata sharing. By tapping into the servers of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, Apple, and Skype, the NSA has virtually unlimited access to every computer in the Country, if not the world. The data collected in this fashion consists of everything from search histories, key words, downloads, uploads, e-mails; literally every key stroke of ever user is readily accessible to the federal government via the PRISM operation. This is of far greater concern for all Americans in that it is essentially a massive cyber-vacuuming effort that arbitrarily collects data about innocent Americans and stores it for later use. The incomprehensibly huge database the NSA and FBI are amassing represent the single largest collection of digital data ever performed, perhaps even, ever imagined by the average citizen. The Top Secret deals these ISP’s struck with the federal intelligence gathering and law enforcement agencies are so broad and beyond the pale of “reasonability” that there are sure to be some very contentious legal actions taken by citizens, privacy advocacy groups and perhaps even massive class actions. Even the most ardent supporters of PRISM in the abstract seem outraged by it in reality. What are Americans to think as these revelations of their government’s massive data collection operations have literally culled information, personal information, about everyone who uses a personal computer, to say nothing of the large-scale business, financial and private networks? AS one former NSA official put it, “We are all ‘persons of interest’ now.”
WHAT ABOUT ME?
William Binney worked for the NSA for 40 years but resigned after 9-11-01 over his disagreement with what he saw to be profound, dangerous incursions into the personal lives of innocent Americans. Speaking on the Democracy Now radio program today he said, "NSA has been doing all this stuff all along, and it's been all these companies, not just one". He continued, "They're just continuing the collection of this data on all U.S. citizens."
For all law abiding citizens who have lived their lives believing our Constitution really meant something and afforded protection from such clandestine invasive, intrusive forays into their personal lives, this is a watershed moment. We all have been violated, seriously violated and, as the saying goes, once the cat is out of the bag it is not easily put back in.
For all the other attacks on our personal right and privileges that have become known in the last dozen years or so, this is the one that might actually serve as “the tipping point”; this is the one that may initiate some very powerful public protest and resistance. This is the one that impacts us all on a level that none of the other recent “scandals” have or could.
In a way we have been duped, we have been grossly mislead and lied to. We have become accustomed to being lied to in the years since Viet Nam, Watergate and all the other “gates”. But this we cannot allow to go unprotested, this we cannot allow to continue. This is the cause they may unite a broad coalition of responsible citizens to take action. If this doesn’t nothing will and, once a people lose the passion for the fight, the fight is already lost.
Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2013 © All Rights Reserved
Sunday, June 2, 2013
FOLLOWING THE ILLOGIC OF THE FAR RIGHT WING
Since God is a Republican, why is He so angry with those who claim to
carry His message and all the “Red States”?
TAGS: POLITICAL COMMENTARY, CYNICAL OPINION, SARCASTIC OBSERVATION,
OKLAHOMA TORNADOES, REPUBLICAN EXTREMISTS, CHRISTIAN COALITION, MORAL MAJORITY,
REPUBLICAN GOD, GOD’S WRATH, GOP HYPOCRISY
(Sunday June 2, 2013 Guthrie, OK) Surveying the tremendous damage inflicted by the tornadoes that tore through this part of Oklahoma last week, it could be said that the devastation is of biblical proportions. Televised images cannot do justice to the reality of seeing entire communities reduced to just so much debris. The evidence of the fierce power of those tornadoes is everywhere; homes are just kindling, semi-trucks strewn upside down along the roads, cars tossed aside like empty soda cans. That more people were not seriously wounded or killed by that barrage of twisters is almost miraculous. Certainly in some neighborhoods and rural areas life and death was a matter of inches. It’s as tragic as it is humbling to view this landscape beneath a clear blue sky. No sane person could stand here and say that it was by the wrath of an “angry” God that this death and destruction was delivered. Or could they?
If one was to extrapolate from a widely and strongly held belief among hardcore Right-wing extreme Republicans then it would be self-evident that God was angry about something these Oklahomans did to invite His ferocious wrath. After all, the far Right-wing of the Republican Party has invoked the notion of a wrathful God punishing people of all sorts be they gay, lesbian, AIDS victims, abortion providers, women who have had abortions, and the host of people who exist along that dark and dismal edge of their self-righteous, God fearing, marriage protecting, anti-abortion, monogamously heterosexual, Bible-thumping, Creationists, absolutists, and sanctimoniously self-assured “real” America who know with firebrand certainty that God is on their side and that He is likely a Republican just as they so proudly are.
Idiocy, bigotry, intolerance, and prejudice, are equally ugly no matter who dons the armored coat of ideological narrow-mindedness and provincial morality. Since the days of their spiritual hero Ronald Reagan the Republican Party has been on a hard march towards an extreme ideology that puts them further and further afield from mainstream Americans with each passing political cycle. Every time they promote yet another piece of legislation that restricts the rights of some Americans to vote, limit the availability of abortion, move to disenfranchise one group or another while espousing their moral superiority, they demonstrate their extremism with crystal clarity.
ONE NATION UNDER THEIR GOD
The Right-wing fundamentalist, evangelical element of the GOP has been on the rise since the mid 1980’s. Lead at various times by a cast of zealots they have now taken control of that Party. Last week former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole, said in an interview that he doubted that “Reagan or Nixon” could make it in today’s GOP. Gone are the days of statesman who put partisanship aside and worked towards compromise and, in so doing, managed to pass many important pieces of legislation. Once the “social issues” became the dominant rallying cry of the Right, the statesman began to vanish only to be replaced by increasingly rabid fundamentalists and single-issue candidates.
The first leaders of this march were men like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed. Suddenly there were GOP factions such as the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, and a growing number of smaller ideologically similar organizations that eventually were absorbed into the GOP. The politics and concepts espoused by these organizations and their increasingly outlandish “leaders” were so moronic that many in the mainstream media and the casual citizen observer could not take them seriously. But serious they were.
As they evolved in their fire and brimstone rhetoric they began to blame every natural disaster and calamity on the victims. To them God was punishing gays for their lifestyle. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires were sent by their God to punish people across the country and around the world in places like Haiti, Africa, and other “non-Judea-Christian” populations. The absurdity of this belied the support such proselytizing was garnering in rural parts of America and throughout the Deep South. The enemies were “Northern Liberals”, New York City and media elites and, of course, Hollywood. These newly empowered Republicans saw it as a mission to wrest “their” America back from the Godless heathens of the large urban centers especially those in the northeast. Their message began to resonate more and more as their brand of politics made it into the churches in rural America and more and more social issues were held up as “proof” that their way of thinking was the ONLY way of thinking because it was in accordance with “the words of God.” It must be immensely comforting and satisfying, inspiring even, to know that you are doing the work of God.
What it must be like to have such bedrock faith. If Liberals were to adopt the Conservative interpretation of the world they would surely draw the ire of the Right-wing punditry and commentators and unleash a storm of bloviating the likes of which we’ve never seen. The hypocrisy would be epic and make no mistake about it, hypocrisy, double standards, and narrowly selective “reasoning” are hallmarks of today’s Republican extremists. Many of the House Republicans who launched the impeachment against then President Bill Clinton were themselves ultimately forced from Office due to their own marital fidelity. Some of the most ardent of the mega-church preachers who proclaimed homosexuality a “curable lifestyle of choice” found themselves caught up in scandalous homosexual liaisons.
What if some Democratic politicians took to the airwaves claiming that the tornadoes that roared through here last week were the manifestation of God’s ire at the people of Oklahoma? In the wake of the historic Hurricane Katrina that destroyed much of New Orleans and the gulf coast, there were Republicans who said on air that that storm was God’s way of punishing “the gays who have an agenda” in New Orleans. That was just a sound bite of standard GOP fare whereas if any Democrat dared to apply the same “reasoning” to the etiology of the savage storms, floods, and in some areas, droughts that have been a scourge on the “Red States” over the past several years, they’d be unmercifully castigated, ridiculed and hung in effigy.
The point is that Democrats, even the most far leftwing outliers in their “big tent” Party typically do not speak in such terms. Even the most devout among them haven’t stooped so low as to lay the blame on God for a calamitous event that has struck in the Red States. Oklahoma, a bastion of rock-ribbed Christian Conservatives has been enduring a wicked weather pattern that has produced a series of brutal storms. No Democrat has stated or implied that God is somehow punishing Oklahomans.
Those elected officials most of whom spend their lives in politics have a responsibility not only to their oath of office but to thinking before speaking, to trying to employ logic over lunacy and to be ever aware that their words matter, there words reach a wide audience and have longevity in the public record. They are not the sole purveyors of truth, be it scientific or Divine. Using the name of God to promote public policy that is far from being “Christian” in any way, shape or form is deceitful, disingenuous and “sinful” according to the teachings of Christ.
There is also a fundamental principal in our Constitution that addresses the “separation of Church and State” that is to many in the GOP just an antiquated ideal conjured up by our feeble-minded forefathers that has no appreciable relevance today. Once any Party, organization or group begins to pick and choose what segments of the Constitution are and are not relevant today, than the fabric that binds us as a people and as a nation with become frayed to the point of being unsustainable. Our country was founded on religious freedom; the Constitution specifies that The State will not form or impose any religion on the people, that our freedom of expression extends to religious expression.
Matters of God and Faith just like those of morality, conscience, responsibility, choices, and personal liberties are best left to each of us provided we infringe on no one else and that our behavior is legal. Once we are able to create ever narrower divisions among us we are well along the path to the perilous loss of coherence among us.
Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2013 © All Rights Reserved