The American Bear


'Out of Control': Europe Furious over NSA Spying on EU Facilities | SPIEGEL ONLINE

"Elmar Brok, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in European Parliament added his opprobrium. ‘The spying has reached dimensions that I didn’t think were possible for a democratic country. Such behavior among allies is intolerable.’ The US, he added, once the land of the free, ‘is suffering from a security syndrome,’ added Brok, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats. 'They have completely lost all balance. George Orwell is nothing by comparison.'

Europeans are furious. Revelations that the US intelligence service National Security Agency (NSA) targeted the European Union and several European countries with its far-reaching spying activities have led to angry reactions from several senior EU and German politicians.

“We need more precise information,” said European Parliament President Martin Schulz. “But if it is true, it is a huge scandal. That would mean a huge burden for relations between the EU and the US. We now demand comprehensive information.”

Schulz was reacting to a report in SPIEGEL that the NSA had bugged the EU’s diplomatic representation in Washington and monitored its computer network (full story available on Monday). The EU’s representation to the United Nations in New York was targeted in a similar manner. US intelligence thus had access to EU email traffic and internal documents. The information appears in secret documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden, some of which SPIEGEL has seen.

The documents also indicate the US intelligence service was responsible for an electronic eavesdropping operation in Brussels. SPIEGEL also reported that Germany has been a significant target of the NSA’s global surveillance program, with some 500 million communication connections being monitored every month. The documents show that the NSA is more active in Germany than in any other country in the European Union.

EU and German politicians on Sunday, however, were reacting primarily to the revelations that the US had specifically targeted the 27-member bloc with its surveillance activities. “If these reports are true, then it is abhorrent,” said Luxembourgian Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. “It would seem that the secret services have gotten out of control. The US should monitor their own secret services rather than their allies.”

Asselborn characterized the operation as a breach of trust. “The US justifies everything as being part of the fight against terrorism. But the EU and its diplomats are not terrorists. We need a guarantee from the very highest level that it stops immediately.”

read on

… The policy, which partly relies on behavior profiles, also could discourage creative thinking and fuel conformist “group think”.

… An online tutorial titled “Treason 101” teaches Department of Agriculture and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees to recognize the psychological profile of spies.

… The Department of Education, meanwhile, informs employees that co-workers going through “certain life experiences … might turn a trusted user into an insider threat.” Those experiences, the department says in a computer training manual, include “stress, divorce, financial problems” or “frustrations with co-workers or the organization.”

… A Defense Security Service online pamphlet lists a wide range of “reportable” suspicious behaviors, including working outside of normal duty hours. While conceding that not every behavior “represents a spy in our midst,” the pamphlet adds that “every situation needs to be examined to determine whether our nation’s secrets are at risk.”

… “If the folks who are watching within an organization for that insider threat – the lawyers, security officials and psychologists – can figure out that an individual is having money problems or decreased work performance and that person may be starting to come into the window of being an insider threat, superiors can then approach them and try to remove that stress before they become a threat to the organization.”

… “If this is done correctly, an organization can get to a person who is having personal issues or problems that if not addressed by a variety of social means may lead that individual to violence, theft or espionage before it even gets to that point,” said a senior Pentagon official.

… Administration officials say the program could help ensure that agencies catch a wide array of threats, especially if employees are properly trained in recognizing behavior that identifies potential security risks.

… The Defense Department anti-leak strategy obtained by McClatchy spells out a zero-tolerance policy. Security managers, it says, “must” reprimand or revoke the security clearances – a career-killing penalty – of workers who commit a single severe infraction or multiple lesser breaches “as an unavoidable negative personnel action.”

… Employees must turn themselves and others in for failing to report breaches. “Penalize clearly identifiable failures to report security infractions and violations, including any lack of self-reporting,” the strategic plan says.

Obama’s crackdown views leaks as aiding enemies of U.S.

All of this just sounds fascistic. (Don’t worry, it’s OK when a charming Democrat does it).

The Pentagon’s Preparations for War Against Us | Alexander Reed Kelly

A score of recent defense department and other official documents warn that climate change, energy shocks and economic crisis could trigger waves of civil unrest. The understanding seems to explain the proliferation of security and surveillance programs over the last decade.

The preparation makes sense from the perspective of governments (four of which—the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand—appear to have been granted access to data collected by the NSA spying program disclosed in recent weeks, as members of an international intelligence alliance known as “Five Eyes”). The world can unravel in at least three different ways. If and when it does, those in power will want the means to keep their grip. Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges has been warning us about this for a while now.

One legal military document grants extraordinary powers to intervene in a domestic “emergency” or “civil disturbance” outside of White House approval. A 2006 National Security Strategy brief warned that “Environmental destruction, whether caused by human behavior or cataclysmic mega-disasters … may overwhelm the capacity of local authorities to respond, and may even overtax national militaries, requiring a larger international response.”

Two years later, the defense department’s Army Modernization Strategy described a soon-to-arrive “era of persistent conflict” due to competition for “depleting natural resources and overseas markets” fueling “future resource wars over water, food and energy,” and predicting a resurgence of “anti-government and radical ideologies that potentially threaten government stability.”

That same year, a report by the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute warned that a series of domestic crises could initiate large-scale civil unrest. “Under the most extreme circumstances,” the report showed, Department of Defense action “might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, Dod would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance.” Around the same time, the Pentagon began developing a force of 20,000 troops who would be on hand to respond to “domestic catastrophes” and civil unrest.

Of course there’s money in this game too. Speaking before employees of Booz Allen Hamilton, the defense contractor that formerly employed NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, Lt Col. Mark Elfendahl, then chief of the Joint and Army Concepts Division, in 2010 described preparations for fighting in the homeland as a way to legitimize the U.S. military budget.

Also in 2010, the Army’s annual Unified Quest program—a yearly conference to determine how war should be waged in the future—voiced expectations that “ecological disasters and a weak economy” would fuel migration to urban areas, increasing social tensions within the United States and between “resource-starved nations.”

The tragic irony here is that the U.S. government’s foreign and domestic policies have created and continue to create the conditions of violent unrest that both honest social critics and war officials are expecting.

Nafeez Ahmed, the Guardian contributor who deserves great credit for compiling excerpts from these documents for the public, concluded his article on the subject by saying: “The Pentagon knows that environmental, economic and other crises could provoke widespread public anger toward government and corporations in coming years. The revelations on the NSA’s global surveillance programmes are just the latest indication that as business as usual creates instability at home and abroad, and as disillusionment with the status quo escalates, Western publics are being increasingly viewed as potential enemies that must be policed by the state.”

With the above as context, we can more easily understand the cryptic ramblings of unapologetic authoritarians like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) who said the following during a House Judiciary Committee hearing with NSA chief Keith Alexander on the “danger” posed by Edward Snowden’s leaks:

It is at times like these where our enemies within become almost as damaging as our enemies on the outside.

Rogers’ “enemy within” is us.

As Glen Ford put it yesterday in a superb post at Black Agenda Report:

[W]hat we do know about U.S. domestic “terror” spying is enough to dismiss the whole premise for the NSA’s vast algorithmic enterprises. The actual “terrorist” threat on U.S. soil is clearly relatively slight. Otherwise, why would the FBI have to manufacture homegrown jihadists by staging elaborate stings of homeless Black men in Miami who couldn’t put together bus fare to Chicago, much less bomb the Sears tower? Why must they entice and entrap marginal people with no capacity for clandestine warfare, and no previous inclination, into schemes to bomb synagogues and shoot down military aircraft, as in Newburgh, New York? Why this steady stream of government-invented terror, if the real thing is so abundant? If the FBI, with NSA assistance, is discovering significant numbers of real terrorists, wouldn’t we be watching a corresponding number of triumphal perp-walks? Of course we would. The only logical conclusion is that terror is a near-negligible domestic threat, wholly unsuited to the NSA’s full-spectrum spying on virtually every American.

So, what are they looking for? Patterns. Patterns of thought and behavior that algorithmically reveal the existence of cohorts of people that might, as a group, or a living network, create problems for the State in the future. People who do not necessarily know each other, but whose patterns of life make them potentially problematic to the rulers, possibly in some future crisis, or some future manufactured crisis. A propensity to dissent, for example. The size of these suspect cohorts, these pattern-based groups, can be as large or small as the defining criteria inputted by the programmer. So, what kind of Americans would the programmers be interested in?

Ask Edward Snowden. He’s the only one talking.

You Are Our Secret (2) | Tom Engelhardt

For this vast, restless, endless expansion of surveillance of every sort and at every level, for the nearly half-million or possibly far more private contractors, aka “digital Blackwater,” now in the government surveillance business — about 70% of the national intelligence budget reportedly goes to the private sector these days — and the nearly five million Americans with security clearances (1.4 million with top security clearances, more than a third of them private contractors), the official explanation is “terrorism.” It matters little that terrorism as a phenomenon is one of the lesser dangers Americans face in their daily lives and that, for some of the larger ones, ranging from food-borne illnesses to cars, guns, and what’s now called “extreme weather,” no one would think about building vast bureaucratic structures shrouded in secrecy, funded to the hilt, and offering Americans promises of ultimate safety.

Terrorism certainly rears its ugly head from time to time and there’s no question that the fear of some operation getting through the vast U.S. security net drives the employees of our global security state. As an explanation for the phenomenal growth of that state, however, it simply doesn’t hold water. In truth, compared to the previous century, U.S. enemies are remarkably scarce on this planet. So forget the official explanation and imagine our global-security-state-in-the-making in the grips of a kind of compulsive disorder in which the urge to go global, make the most private information of the citizen everywhere the property of the American state, and expand surveillance endlessly simply trumps any other way of doing things.

In other words, they can’t help themselves. The process, the phenomenon, has them by the throat, so much so that they can imagine no other way of being. In this mood, they are paving the way for a new global security — or rather insecurity — world. They are, for instance, hiking spending on “cybersecurity,” have already secretly launched the planet’s first cyberwar, are planning for more of them, intend to dominate the future cyber-landscape in a staggering fashion, continue to gather global data of every sort on a massive scale, and more generally are acting in ways that they would consider criminal if other countries engaged in them. [++]

No other country in the world presently stands out so nakedly—the Manning-Snowden symbolism—in clamping down hard on internal dissent, on erecting secrecy into a principle of the state (now capitalized in practice as the State, the National Security State), on developing the legal arguments and provisions which legitimate the suspension of the Constitution in the name of the law. Supplementary baggage doesn’t help: the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, targeted assassinations, illegal, unwarranted intervention, all of these, now under Obama, as the continuance and intensification of the work of his predecessors, for which he must therefore take full responsibility (even more so, since the previous contours of policy were well-known, and he willingly followed suit), places the US in the unenviable position of representing a society almost alone, by its action, in combining domestic repression and foreign aggression, becoming the more integrated the further each is pursued, in order to cover up the other. Norman Pollack, America at the Precipice

I.B.M.’s Watson, the supercomputing technology that defeated human Jeopardy! champions in 2011, is a prime example of the power of data-intensive artificial intelligence. Watson-style computing, analysts said, is precisely the technology that would make the ambitious data-collection program of the N.S.A. seem practical. Computers could instantly sift through the mass of Internet communications data, see patterns of suspicious online behavior and thus narrow the hunt for terrorists. Both the N.S.A. and the Central Intelligence Agency have been testing Watson in the last two years, said a consultant who has advised the government and asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak. Revelations Give Look at Spy Agency’s Wider Reach

In order to obfuscate the failure of the US National Security State, the corporate media takes center stage—with the advice and consent of America’s elite—to get the prevailing national narrative back on track. It’s predictable: everyone in the world is evil; the USA is a force for good; no one could have foreseen the event, and on and on ad nauseam. In short, blame it on someone else and ignore the structural problems in America’s violent, myth-heavy cultural landscape. US National Security State Fails in Boston

Ian Welsh: Boston is the end result of a broken system

The tempo of mass killings and bombings IS going to increase.  The generation coming up is much more detached from your society.  They are much less likely to believe in it, to think it’s fair, to believe they can have a good life, or a purposeful life in it.  They are burdened with debt, they know that one slip up can condemn them to a lousy life, they see the good jobs going, going, going and they understand, in their bones, that the society is a corrupt one.  Make no mistake, bankers killed far more people than these boys, and they didn’t go to jail.  The people running the plant in Texas which blew up and the bureaucrats who made the decision not to shut it down, killed more people than these kids did, and they did it for money.  A society which is fundamentally unjust, and which is seen to be fundamentally unjust, is going to have more and more problems like this.  The older generations still sort of believed, or still thought they could make it through.  The new generations coming up, will less and less believe the myths, less and less believe that if they just play by the rules, they’ll be taken care of.  Less and less believe that if they fail, well, the system is basically fair and they had it coming.

(Source: circlingtheroundabout)

Obama-Brennan-CIA, a lovely troika qua hegemonic battering ram, reached a structural convergence, aka The National Security State, just in the nick of time, as America has begun an accelerated decline from numero uno in global power and now perhaps vainly seeks to reassert its unilateralism in world politics at the very moment alternative modes of organization—the rise of multipolar centers of power—some quite possibly even socialist, are on the historical boards. For our troika, anything goes! Assassination, torture, covert operations, the wider use of paramilitary forces, cyberwarfare, massive ‘defense’ spending (what a misnomer), modernization of nuclear weaponry, naval power, from itty-bitty littoral craft to supercarriers,…god, the list is inspiring, as thrilling to recite, as is the experience of watching Stealth flyovers at the halftime of big football games. I already have a lump in my throat. And we owe this resurgence of American power to Barack Obama, his man at CIA, and, not to be forgotten, the CIA’s partner in spreading democracy, JSOC, itself running the military wing (remember, the CIA is, yes, civilian) of the drone assassination program, or in today’s terms, the more neutral-sounding ‘project.’

Norman Pollack

Where Democracy Ends, Fascism Begins

The Washington Post has reported that there are 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies in 10,000 locations in the United States that are working on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence, and that the intelligence community as a whole includes 854,000 people who hold top-secret clearances. According to a 2008 study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, private contractors make up 29% of the workforce in the US intelligence community and cost the equivalent of 49% of their personnel budgets.

United States Intelligence Community (Wikipedia).

1,271 government organizations working on national security and intelligence.  The Washington Post report in question noted that “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

If this isn’t an indication that the Leviathan is out of control, I’m not sure what is.

(via letterstomycountry)

Gore Vidal on the ‘National Security State’ of America | The Dissenter

In March 1998, Vidal delivered an excellent speech on the subject [of the National Security State] at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It was based on an essay he wrote for Vanity Fair in November 1997, and it highlighted the fiftieth anniversary of the National Security Act, which Vidal introduced as an act that, “without any national debate or the people’s consent, replaced the old American republic with a national security state very much in the global empire business.”

Vidal gives a brilliant description of the cultural post-World War II climate that created the conditions where the powerful could pass the National Security Act. He says, “A novelty, television, had begun to appear in household after household, its cold, gray, distorting eye relentlessly projecting a fun house view of the world.” This is all a setup for why the powerful in the country felt they needed to launch a Cold War.

As he notes, the “official explanations” given for why America needed to increase income taxes to pay for weapons to go after the Soviet Union made “very little sense.” But, Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson narrowly observed:

“In the State Department we used to discuss how much time that mythical average American citizen put in each day listening, reading, and arguing about the world outside his country. It seemed to us that ten minutes a day would be a high average.” So why bore the people? Secret bipartisan government is best for what, after all, is or should be a society of docile workers, enthusiastic consumers, obedient soldiers who will believe just about anything for at least ten minutes.

The NATO alliance and forty years of the Cold War all began at this moment. Elections from this point forward were meaningless when it came to challenging the wartime state at home:

Of course, there were elections during the crucial time, but Truman-Dewey, Eisenhower-Stevenson, Kennedy-Nixon were of a single mind as to the desirability of inventing first a many-tentacled enemy–communism, the star of the chamber of horrors–then, to combat so much evil, install a permanent wartime state at home, with loyalty oaths, the national peacetime draft, and secret police to keep watch over homegrown traitors, as the few enemies of the national security state were known.

Then followed forty years of mindless wars, which created a debt of $5 trillion that hugely benefited aerospace companies and firms like General Electric, whose longtime TV spokesman, Ronald Reagan, eventually retired to the White House.