Homeland Stupidity http://www.homelandstupidity.us Government is stupid. Discover a better way to organize society. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 02:34:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Why The 2,776 NSA Violations Are No Big Deal http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/18/why-the-2776-nsa-violations-are-no-big-deal/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/18/why-the-2776-nsa-violations-are-no-big-deal/#comments Sun, 18 Aug 2013 17:00:49 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=897 Thanks to more documents leaked by Edward Snowden, this time to the Washington Post, we learned last week that a secret May 2012 internal audit by the NSA revealed 2,776 incidents of “unauthorized” collection of information on American citizens over the previous 12 months. They are routinely breaking their own rules and covering it up.

The Post article quotes an NSA spokesman assuring the paper that the NSA attempts to identify such problems “at the earliest possible moment.” But what happened to all those communications intercepted improperly in the meantime? The answer is, they were logged and stored anyway.

We also learned that the NSA routinely intercepts information from Americans while actually targeting foreigners, and that this is not even considered a violation. These intercepts are not deleted once discovered, even though they violate the government’s own standards. As the article reports, “once added to its databases, absent other restrictions, the communications of Americans may be searched freely.”

The Post article quotes an NSA official explaining that the thousands of unauthorized communications intercepts yearly are relatively insignificant. “You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day. You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

So although the numbers of Americans who have had their information intercepted in violation of NSA’s own rules seems large, it is actually minuscule compared to the huge volume of our communications they intercept in total!

Though it made for a sensational headline last week, the fact is these 2,776 “violations” over the course of one year are completely irrelevant. The millions and millions of “authorized” intercepts of our communications are all illegal — except for the very few carried out in pursuit of a validly-issued search warrant in accordance with the Fourth Amendment. That is the real story. Drawing our attention to the violations unfortunately sends the message that the “authorized” spying on us is nothing to be concerned about.

When information about the massive NSA domestic spying program began leaking earlier in the summer, Deputy Attorney General James Cole assured us of the many levels of safeguards to prevent the unauthorized collection, storage, and distribution of our communications. He promised to explain the NSA’s record “in as transparent a way as we possibly can.”

Yet two months later we only discover from more leaked documents the thousands of times communications were intercepted in violation of their own standards! It is hardly reassuring, therefore, when they promise us they will be more forthcoming in the future. No one believes them because they have lied and covered up continuously. The only time any light at all is shone on these criminal acts by the government is when a whistleblower comes forth with new and ever more disturbing information.

Americans are increasingly concerned over these violations of their privacy. Calls for reform grow. However, whenever Washington finds itself in a scandal, the government responds by naming a government panel made up of current and former government employees to investigate any mistakes the government might have made. The recommendations invariably are that even more government employees must be hired to provide an additional layer or two of oversight. That is supposed to reassure us that reforms have been made, while in fact it is just insiders covering up for those who have hired them to investigate.

Let us hope the American people will decide that such trickery is no longer acceptable. It is time to take a very serious look at the activities of the US intelligence community. The first step would be a dramatic reduction in appropriations to force a focus on those real, not imagined, threats to our national security. We should not be considered the enemy.

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Why Won’t They Tell Us the Truth About NSA Spying? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/04/why-wont-they-tell-us-the-truth-about-nsa-spying/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/04/why-wont-they-tell-us-the-truth-about-nsa-spying/#comments Sun, 04 Aug 2013 20:53:22 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=891 In 2001, the Patriot Act opened the door to US government monitoring of Americans without a warrant. It was unconstitutional, but most in Congress over my strong objection were so determined to do something after the attacks of 9/11 that they did not seem to give it too much thought. Civil liberties groups were concerned, and some of us in Congress warned about giving up our liberties even in the post-9/11 panic. But at the time most Americans did not seem too worried about the intrusion.

This complacency has suddenly shifted given recent revelations of the extent of government spying on Americans. Politicians and bureaucrats are faced with serious backlash from Americans outraged that their most personal communications are intercepted and stored. They had been told that only the terrorists would be monitored. In response to this anger, defenders of the program have time and again resorted to spreading lies and distortions. But these untruths are now being exposed very quickly.

In a Senate hearing this March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Senator Ron Wyden that the NSA did not collect phone records of millions of Americans. This was just three months before the revelations of an NSA leaker made it clear that Clapper was not telling the truth. Pressed on his false testimony before Congress, Clapper apologized for giving an “erroneous” answer but claimed it was just because he “simply didn’t think of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.” Wow.

As the story broke in June of the extent of warrantless NSA spying against Americans, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers assured us that the project was a strictly limited and not invasive. He described it as a “lockbox with only phone numbers, no names, no addresses in it, we’ve used it sparingly, it is absolutely overseen by the legislature, the judicial branch and the executive branch, has lots of protections built in…”

But we soon discovered that also was not true either. We learned in another Guardian newspaper article last week that the top secret “X-Keyscore” program allows even low-level analysts to “search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

The keys to Rogers’ “lockbox” seem to have been handed out to everyone but the janitors! As Chairman of the Committee that is supposed to be most in the loop on these matters, it seems either the Intelligence Community misled him about their programs or he misled the rest of us. It sure would be nice to know which one it is.

Likewise, Rep. Rogers and many other defenders of the NSA spying program promised us that this dragnet scooping up the personal electronic communications of millions of Americans had already stopped “dozens” of terrorist plots against the United States. In June, NSA director General Keith Alexander claimed that the just-disclosed bulk collection of Americans’ phone and other electronic records had “foiled 50 terror plots.”

Opponents of the program were to be charged with being unconcerned with our security.

But none of it was true.

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday heard dramatic testimony from NSA deputy director John C. Inglis. According to the Guardian:

“The NSA has previously claimed that 54 terrorist plots had been disrupted ‘over the lifetime’ of the bulk phone records collection and the separate program collecting the internet habits and communications of people believed to be non-Americans. On Wednesday, Inglis said that at most one plot might have been disrupted by the bulk phone records collection alone.”

From dozens to “at most one”?

Supporters of these programs are now on the defensive, with several competing pieces of legislation in the House and Senate seeking to rein in an administration and intelligence apparatus that is clearly out of control. This is to be commended. What is even more important, though, is for more and more and more Americans to educate themselves about our precious liberties and to demand that their government abide by the Constitution. We do not have to accept being lied to — or spied on — by our government.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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A House Divided Over NSA Spying on Americans http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/07/29/a-house-divided-over-nsa-spying-on-americans/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/07/29/a-house-divided-over-nsa-spying-on-americans/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2013 10:26:45 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=887 Last week’s House debate on the Defense Appropriations bill for 2014 produced a bit more drama than usual. After hearing that House leadership would do away with the traditional “open rule” allowing for debate on any funding limitation amendment, it was surprising to see that Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-MI) amendment was allowed on the Floor. In the wake of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of US government spying on American citizens, Amash’s amendment sought to remove funding in the bill for some of the NSA programs.

Had Amash’s amendment passed, it would have been a significant symbolic victory over the administration’s massive violations of our Fourth Amendment protections. But we should be careful about believing that even if it had somehow miraculously survived the Senate vote and the President’s veto, it would have resulted in any significant change in how the Intelligence Community would behave toward Americans. The US government has built the largest and most sophisticated spying apparatus in the history of the world.

The NSA has been massively increasing the size its facilities, both at its Maryland headquarters and in its newly built (and way over-budget) enormous data center in Utah. Taken together, these two facilities will be seven times larger than the Pentagon! And we know now that much of the NSA’s capacity to intercept information has been turned inward, to spy on us.

As NSA expert James Bamford wrote earlier this year about the new Utah facility:

“The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration — an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.”

But it happened anyway.

Over the last week we have seen two significant prison-breaks, one in Iraq, where some 500 al-Qaeda members broke out of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, which the US built, and another 1,000 escaped in a huge break in Benghazi, Libya — the city where the US Ambassador was killed by the rebels that the US government helped put in power. Did the US intelligence community, focused on listening to our phone calls, not see this real threat coming?

Rep. Amash’s amendment was an important move to at least bring attention to what the US intelligence community has become: an incredibly powerful conglomeration of secret government agencies that seem to view Americans as the real threat. It is interesting that the votes on Amash’s amendment divided the House not on party lines. Instead, we saw the votes divided between those who follow their oath to the Constitution, versus those who seem to believe that any violation of the Constitution is justified in the name of the elusive “security” of the police state at the expense of liberty. The leadership — not to my surprise — of both parties in the House voted for the police state.

It is encouraging to see the large number of votes crossing party lines in favor of the Amash amendment. Let us hope that this will be a growing trend in the House — perhaps the promise that Congress may once again begin to take its duties and obligations seriously. We should not forget, however, that in the meantime another Defense Appropriations bill passing really means another “military spending” bill. The Administration is planning for a US invasion of Syria, more military assistance to the military dictatorship in Egypt, and more drones and interventionism. We have much work yet to do.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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New Egyptian War: Americans Lose, Again http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/07/07/new-egyptian-war-americans-lose-again/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/07/07/new-egyptian-war-americans-lose-again/#comments Sun, 07 Jul 2013 23:07:19 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=874 Looking at the banners in the massive Egyptian protests last week, we saw many anti-American slogans. Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood-led government that was deposed by the military last week was very critical of what it saw as US support for the coup. Why is it that all sides in this Egyptian civil war seem so angry with the United States? Because the United States has at one point or another supported each side, which means also that at some point the US has also opposed each side. It is the constant meddling in Egyptian affairs that has turned Egyptians against us, as we would resent foreign intervention in our own affairs.

For more than 30 years, since the US-brokered Camp David Accord between Israel and Egypt, the US supported Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Over that period the US sent more than $60 billion to prop up Mubarak and, importantly, to train and seek control over the Egyptian military. Those who opposed Mubarak’s unelected reign became more and more resentful of the US, which they rightly saw as aiding and abetting a dictator and denying them their political aspirations.

Then the US began providing assistance to groups seeking to overthrow Mubarak, which they did in 2011. The US continued funding the Egyptian military at that time, arguing that US aid was more critical than ever if we are to maintain influence. The US Administration demanded an election in Egypt after Mubarak’s overthrow and an election was held. Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood won a narrow victory. The US supported Morsi but kept funding the Egyptian military.

After a year of Morsi’s rule, Egyptians who did not approve of his government took to the streets to demand his removal from power. The US signaled to the Egyptian military that it would not oppose the removal of Morsi from power, and he was removed on July 3rd. With the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government came the arrest of many politicians and the closure of many media outlets sympathetic to them. Then the US government warned the same Egyptian military that undermined democracy that it needed to restore democracy! Is it any wonder why Egyptians from all walks of life are united in their irritation with the United States?

Despite the Egyptian government being overthrown by a military coup, the Obama Administration will not utter the word “coup” because acknowledging reality would mean an end to US assistance to the Egyptian government and military. That cannot be allowed.

Instead, we see the same Obama administration that is on a worldwide manhunt for pro-transparency whistle-blower Edward Snowden demand that the Egyptian military exercise “political transparency” in its dealings with the ousted Muslim Brotherhood-led government.

So, successive US administrations over the decades have supported all sides in Egypt, from dictator to demonstrator to military. There is only one side that the US government has never supported: our side. The American side. It has never supported the side of the US taxpayers who resent being forced to fund a foreign dictatorship, a foreign military, and foreign protesters. It has never supported the side of the majority of Americans who do not wish to get involved in the confusing internal affairs of countries thousands of miles away. It has never supported the side of those of us concerned about blowback, which is the real threat to our national security. Unfortunately, US administrations continue to follow the same old failed policies and Obama is no different. More intervention, more foreign aid, more bullying, more empire.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Government Spying: Should We Be Shocked? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/06/09/government-spying-should-we-be-shocked/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/06/09/government-spying-should-we-be-shocked/#comments Mon, 10 Jun 2013 00:01:32 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=870 Last week we saw dramatic new evidence of illegal government surveillance of our telephone calls, and of the National Security Agency’s deep penetration into American companies such as Facebook and Microsoft to spy on us. The media seemed shocked.

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance — not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

It was all a build-up of the government’s capacity to monitor us.

The reaction of some in Congress and the Administration to last week’s leak was predictable. Knee-jerk defenders of the police state such as Senator Lindsey Graham declared that he was “glad” the government was collecting Verizon phone records — including his own — because the government needs to know what the enemy is up to. Those who take an oath to defend the Constitution from its enemies both foreign and domestic should worry about such statements.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers tells us of the tremendous benefits of this Big Brother-like program. He promises us that domestic terrorism plots were thwarted, but he cannot tell us about them because they are classified. I am a bit skeptical, however. In April, the New York Times reported that most of these domestic plots were actually elaborate sting operations developed and pushed by the FBI. According to the Times report, “of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in sting operations.”

Even if Chairman Rogers is right, though, and the program caught someone up to no good, we have to ask ourselves whether even such a result justifies trashing the Constitution. Here is what I said on the floor of the House when the PATRIOT Act was up for renewal back in 2011:

“If you want to be perfectly safe from child abuse and wife beating, the government could put a camera in every one of our houses and our bedrooms, and maybe there would be somebody made safer this way, but what would you be giving up? Perfect safety is not the purpose of government. What we want from government is to enforce the law to protect our liberties.”

What most undermines the claims of the Administration and its defenders about this surveillance program is the process itself. First the government listens in on all of our telephone calls without a warrant and then if it finds something it goes to a FISA court and get an illegal approval for what it has already done! This turns the rule of law and due process on its head.

The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing. We need to turn the cameras on the police and on the government, not the other way around. We should be thankful for writers like Glenn Greenwald, who broke last week’s story, for taking risks to let us know what the government is doing. There are calls for the persecution of Greenwald and the other whistle-blowers and reporters. They should be defended, as their work defends our freedom.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Four potential risks to intelligence fusion centers http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2007/07/16/four-potential-risks-to-intelligence-fusion-centers/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2007/07/16/four-potential-risks-to-intelligence-fusion-centers/#comments Mon, 16 Jul 2007 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2007/07/16/four-potential-risks-to-intelligence-fusion-centers/ ]]> The more than 40 local and regional intelligence fusion centers created after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to improve information sharing between the federal government and state, local and tribal law enforcement, are failing to accomplish their mission of protecting the homeland.

The fusion centers were supposed to be a vehicle whereby information would be disseminated closer to the people who need it most: the state and local law enforcement and emergency personnel who will be the first to respond to a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

But, according to a new report (PDF) from the Congressional Research Service and obtained by the Federation of American Scientists, “little ‘true fusion,’ or analysis of disparate data sources, identification of intelligence gaps, and pro-active collection of intelligence against those gaps which could contribute to prevention is occurring.”

The report is also worth reading for its extensive background on intelligence fusion centers and the role of intelligence in modern law enforcement.


“Some homeland security observers suggest that the rush to establish and enhance state fusion centers is a post-9/11 reaction and that over time some of the centers may dissolve,” the report says. Were the fusion centers created too quickly so that the government could look like it was doing something?

Over time, fusion centers could be consolidated, especially if there isn’t another terrorist attack or major natural disaster for them to work on, if the centers are duplicating each other’s work, or if the risks to given geographic areas change.


“If the United States is not the target of a successful terrorist attack, homeland security funding, arguably, may decrease,” the report warns.

“It is unclear how fusion centers would fare in such a situation.” Some fusion centers could close entirely, while others might continue operating, albeit with reduced staffing and capacity.

As it stands, the fusion centers have received a total of $380 million in start-up funding, but many of them have no further federal funding allocated to them, the report says.

Civil Liberties

“Arguments against fusion centers often center around the idea that such centers are essentially pre-emptive law enforcement — that intelligence gathered in the absence of a criminal predicate is unlawfully gathered intelligence.”

The farther away from a criminal investigation law enforcement gets, the higher the risk of a civil liberties violation. This is a difficult balancing act. A group of U.S. citizens speaking freely and associating with one another might be entirely innocent of criminal or terrorist intent, or they could be plotting the next attack. How can government preserve the rights of the former while stopping the latter from carrying out their plans?

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “We’re setting up essentially a domestic intelligence agency, and we’re doing it without having a full debate about the risks to privacy and civil liberties.” Furthermore, the ACLU is also concerned with having DHS perform a coordinating role at the federal level with respect to these centers. “We are granting extraordinary powers to one agency, without adequate transparency or safeguards, that hasn’t shown Congress that it’s ready for the job.” — Fusion Centers: Issues and Options for Congress (PDF)

Underlying Philosophy

“Is the country any safer or more prepared with fusion centers or have we created a false sense of security?” asks the report.

As the report notes, “numerous fusion center officials claim that although their center receives a substantial amount of information from federal agencies, they never seem to get the ‘right information’ or receive it in an efficient manner.”

The fusion centers are further hampered by the way they are structured, according to the CRS. They have little private sector input, they encounter difficulties with classification of information, and in many cases they have limited access to relevant state information databases.

That access is uneven. The report said that one state center had access to only 30 percent of the pertinent databases, while officials at a different state’s center said they would soon obtain access to 92 percent of such databases. — Government Computer News

In addition, state and local law enforcement agencies are using the fusion centers for garden variety criminal intelligence, as opposed to counterterrorism.

“First, leadership at several fusion centers interviewed for this report noted they believed the country was moving towards an all-crimes and/or all-hazards model and they felt they needed to move with the changing tide.”

The report further noted that “most police departments and public sector agencies are more concerned with issues such as gangs, narcotics, and street crime, which are more relevant to their communities.” And, broadening their focus allowed the fusion centers to obtain more money.

Worst of all, the fusion centers don’t seem to have been effective at either their broad, all-crimes, all-hazards mission, or at the narrow counterterrorism mission.

“It is unclear if a single fusion center has successfully adopted a truly proactive prevention approach to information analysis and sharing,’ the report said. “No state and its local jurisdictions appear to have fully adopted the intelligence cycle.”

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Homeland Security contributed bad data to military intelligence database http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/22/homeland-security-contributed-bad-data-to-military-intelligence-database/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/22/homeland-security-contributed-bad-data-to-military-intelligence-database/#comments Wed, 22 Nov 2006 20:24:33 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/homeland-security-contributed-bad-data-to-military-intelligence-database/ ]]> If you disagree with the policies of the U.S. government, or are a member of a group or association which expresses disagreement with government policies, an agent of the federal government is likely reading your web site and subscribed to your mailing list.

Undercover officers of the Federal Protective Service subscribed to the mailing lists and monitored Web sites of peaceful anti-war groups, and contributed information about those groups’ activities to a military intelligence database, according to Pentagon documents released Tuesday.

NBC News revealed in December 2005 that the Threat and Local Observation Notice database, used by the military to track potential terrorist threats to military installations, contained data on peaceful protesters and anti-war groups. The Pentagon subsequently announced that after a review, the data had been cleaned out of the database and intelligence personnel retrained.

“I don’t want it, we shouldn’t have had it, not interested in it,’ said Daniel J. Baur, the acting director of the counterintelligence field activity unit, which runs the Talon program at the Defense Department. “I don’t want to deal with it.’

Mr. Baur said that those operating the database had misinterpreted their mandate and that what was intended as an antiterrorist database became, in some respects, a catch-all for leads on possible disruptions and threats against military installations in the United States, including protests against the military presence in Iraq.

“I don’t think the policy was as clear as it could have been,’ he said. Once the problem was discovered, he said, “we fixed it,’ and more than 180 entries in the database related to war protests were deleted from the system last year. Out of 13,000 entries in the database, many of them uncorroborated leads on possible terrorist threats, several thousand others were also purged because he said they had “no continuing relevance.’ — New York Times

Each of the documents, (PDF) released Tuesday to the American Civil Liberties Union pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, show that the leads on anti-war protests originated with undercover FPS agents, whose names were redacted from the documents at the request of FPS’s parent agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

One such document details an anti-war protest of a Sacramento, Calif., military entrance processing station planned by Veterans for Peace on Veterans Day in 2004, a day the center was closed. VFP specifically rejects any type of violent protest, according to its Web site. There were “no known vandalism or incidents as a result of the protest,’ the document notes.

Another document notes that VFP “is a peaceful organization, but there is potential future protest[s] could become violent,’ an accusation that VFP executive director Michael McPhearson calls “appalling.’

“The federal government should not be wasting valuable resources gathering files on peaceful protesters who disagree with the Bush administration’s policies,’ McPhearson said.

Another document details peaceful protests by the War Resisters League in New York City in 2005, noting that it “advocates Gandhian nonviolence,’ “will not use physical violence or verbal abuse toward any person’ and “will not damage any property.’

Several other documents detail peaceful protests at military recruiting stations by the American Friends Service Committee, National Front for Peace and Justice, and other groups.

Dave Ridley protests Nov. 13 in Concord, N.H.

FPS, originally created in 1971 as part of the General Services Administration to protect federal buildings, was moved under the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. It routinely monitors anyone it deems a potential threat to federal assets, such as Dave Ridley and the New Hampshire Underground.

An FPS officer cited Ridley for distributing handbills at an Internal Revenue Service office in Nashua, N.H., in September, after he wrote about the experience in the Keene Free Press, an alternative newspaper published in Keene, N.H. Ridley had entered the IRS office holding a sign saying “Is it right to work 4 IRS?’ and handed out flyers urging IRS agents to quit their “immoral’ jobs.

Last week he and 16 other people protested at the federal building in Concord just prior to his November 13 court appearance.

“The feds admitted in court that they read this website,’ said Kat Kanning, publisher of the Keene Free Press and owner of the New Hampshire Underground Web site. Members of the site advocate smaller government and individual liberty and regularly hold peaceful protests throughout the state.

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Social Security data used for criminal investigations http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/09/social-security-data-used-for-criminal-investigations/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/09/social-security-data-used-for-criminal-investigations/#comments Fri, 10 Nov 2006 02:37:33 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/social-security-data-used-for-criminal-investigations/ ]]> Wage and earnings data held at the Social Security Administration has been used in terrorism investigations since September 11, 2001. But few if any of those investigated have been brought up on terrorism charges.

Federal prosecutors don’t actually bring terrorism charges if they can find any lesser charges which will result in a deportation and preserve national security secrets, officials said.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the News 21 Program of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education. According to a statement on its Web site, it aims to transform journalism in the 21st century by “preparing future media leaders to be analytic thinkers, clear writers and communicators, armed with an in-depth understanding of the context and complexity of issues facing the modern world.’ And it’s starting to unleash a new breed of journalists on the world.

Two of them turned in this story to the Washington Post, which the editor promptly buried in the back pages.

The Social Security Administration is “literally the Fort Knox of identity information in the United States,’ said James Huse, the agency’s inspector general from 1998 to 2004. “That’s a pretty impressive investigative tool that no other agency possesses.’

From just after Sept. 11 through 2005, Social Security officials sent prosecutors 456 referrals that were classified as terrorism-related, according to statistics compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The review shows that 91 percent of those referrals led to prosecutions. . . .

Still, few if any suspects in Social Security cases are ever linked publicly to alleged terrorist activity. Most cases referred to prosecutors in the months after Sept. 11 involved document fraud by Latino immigrants working at airports. . . .

“Prosecution of terrorism-related targets on [immigration and document fraud] charges is often an effective method — and sometimes the only available method — of deterring and disrupting potential terrorist planning and support activities without compromising national security information,’ Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty wrote in a Justice Department white paper in June. . . .

The Internal Revenue code normally prohibits Social Security from releasing information in the wage and earnings database, even to law enforcement agencies. But IRS and Social Security officials are permitted to waive that rule in “life-threatening situations.’ A 30-day waiver was granted immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks and was extended four times by the IRS through early 2002, [Jonathan] Lasher [deputy chief counsel to the Social Security Administration’s inspector general] said. — Washington Post

That explains how stealing Corn Flakes became a federal terrorism investigation.

Of course, it didn’t help that post-9/11 Justice Department rules allowed for almost anything to be classified as a terrorism-related investigation, as well as fudging the numbers in other ways.

So now, federal agents can turn anything into a terrorism investigation through some bureaucratic sleight-of-hand, get Social Security records which would otherwise be off-limits, and use whatever they find against you. And don’t think you have nothing to hide because you’re innocent. A screwed up computer record, and they are all over the place, would be enough for a predawn paramilitary raid at your house and a one-way trip to the nearest federal prison.

Have a nice day, tovarishch.

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Government tries to stop AT&T surveillance lawsuit http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/09/att-surveillance-lawsuit-still-alive/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/09/att-surveillance-lawsuit-still-alive/#comments Thu, 09 Nov 2006 18:02:33 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/government-tries-to-stop-att-surveillance-lawsuit/ ]]> A federal appeals court on Wednesday agreed to hear arguments from the government as to why a lawsuit against AT&T for its alleged cooperation in a terrorist surveillance program should be dismissed due to state secrets.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation brought a lawsuit January 31 against AT&T alleging that the company unlawfully cooperated with the National Security Agency in implementing what President George W. Bush calls the terrorist surveillance program, a program to capture international telephone calls of suspected terrorists and their associates where one end of the call is in the United States.

The Department of Justice on Thursday asked for a stay in the case, as well as the other cases which had been consolidated with it, asking the district court to halt entirely while the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considers the case.

“The government’s proposed stay would not be in the interests of justice in this very important case about ongoing illegal spying on millions of ordinary Americans,’ said EFF media relations coordinator Rebecca Jeschke. “Many elements of our suit can and should go forward while the 9th Circuit considers the state secrets issues.’

The Department of Justice asserted that litigating the case would reveal national security secrets, causing exceptionally grave damage to the national security, and moved to dismiss the case. In July, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker denied the government’s motion to dismiss, ruling that “because the very subject matter of this litigation has been so publicly aired . . . dismissing this case at the outset would sacrifice liberty for no apparent enhancement of security.’

The government appealed that decision, and the the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday to hear the appeal. The appeals court did not give an indication as to when it might rule on the appeal.

“We are looking forward to defending Walker’s decision to deny the motions to dismiss before the appeals court,’ said EFF staff attorney Kurt Opsahl.

After the motion to dismiss was denied, 17 other lawsuits against various telephone companies were consolidated with the EFF’s case. Judge Walker will hold a case management conference Nov. 17 for these cases, Opsahl said.

In a separate case, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that the NSA terrorist surveillance program was unconstitutional. The government is being allowed to continue the program while it pursues an appeal.

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Google intelligence cooperation reprise http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/10/30/google-intelligence-cooperation-reprise/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/10/30/google-intelligence-cooperation-reprise/#comments Mon, 30 Oct 2006 17:01:47 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=812 ]]> Something strange happened over the weekend. A story I wrote over eight months ago about Google’s quiet cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community suddenly got picked upall over the Internet.

While I’d like to comment individually at all of the sites which have picked up the story, that would unfortunately be far too time-consuming. Even linking to them all would take too long at this point. So please consider this your response.

First, a bit of background: At the 2006 OSS.net IOP conference, organized by former intelligence officer Robert David Steele, sources said that Google was in bed with U.S. intelligence agencies. Anthony Kimery at HSToday broke the story in January. HSToday, a site rarely used as a source for several reasons: it requires a subscription, it didn’t (but now does) have RSS feeds, and carefully targets itself to government agencies, otherwise staying under the radar. It was almost a month before I even knew the story existed.

Even so, it’s worth registering to read the extensive background information HSToday has put together on Google’s association with the U.S. intelligence community (IC). Google, it seems, has been involved with the Central Intelligence Agency almost since its beginning. Here’s a small sample:

In June 1999, the then up-start Google received a $25 million round of equity funding led by Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the latter of which the CIA’s In-Q-Tel had developed a close relationship with to advance “priority” technologies of value to the IC. A number of Sequoia-bankrolled start-ups have contracted with the Department of Defense, especially after 9/11 when Sequoia’s Mark Kvamme met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to discuss the application of emerging technologies to warfighting and intelligence collection. — HSToday

This is not, as Jason Battelle wrote, “in the Tin-Foil Hat category.” John, we missed it because some sites which may contain important information restrict their content to subscribers. We’ve relied too much on freely available information, and forgotten to look for information which isn’t so freely available. I’m sure Robert Steele would appreciate the irony.

Another question has been raised as to whether Steele is a reliable source. Apparently this story got big when Steele appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s radio show last week and talked about Google’s involvement with the intelligence community. Steele comes from an intelligence background in Marine Corps intelligence and the CIA. He created OSS.net to draw attention to the fact that U.S. intelligence relies too much on a Cold War siege mentality while most of the intelligence it really needs can be found from open sources. As for his reliability, I was privileged to hear him speak at a conference earlier this year, and I was quite surprised at his breadth and depth of knowledge about intelligence. I had spot-checked a few facts he’d given there, and found them to be true.

More to the point, I have no reason to doubt the veracity of Steele’s claim, nor the anonymous sources originally cited by HSToday.

When I originally published the story here, it got very little notice, primarily because at the time Homeland Stupidity was quite obscure. It’s much, much larger now, ranking today at 219th among the millions of blogs Technorati has indexed. And I plan to crack the top 100 within the next few months. It’s also since gained several other writers and is now indexed in Google News, bringing much more exposure.

Google, for its part, refuses to comment on national security matters. This story, and Google’s refusal to comment, simply provide more ammunition for Google’s critics. One of them even provides an alternative, called Scroogle, which promises to sanitize your searches so that you can’t be tracked, run by Daniel Brandt, who has been criticizing Google for years regarding its privacy and data retention policies.

“People averse to the risk of exposing their online activities to government surveillance should take Google’s studious silence as confirmation,” writes Cato Institute director of information policy studies Jim Harper.

Good advice.

While people are going through my old archives, here’s a related one you’ll want to read. How to really stay anonymous online: Using Tor is not enough.

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