Tag: domestic spying

Coming to a City Near You

A post not about left/right but about freedom and privacy.

Big Brother has a great new expensive toy and itching to use it. Predator Drones once used for combat operations in war torn areas of the world are now ready to be deployed in US cities to spy on its own citizens.

(updated)Lower Merion School Webcam SnooperGate, PA-06, Welcome to TerraWar, Kids!

(ARC note: Multiple edits were made to this because the Lower Merion Township, PA School District website, where this correspondence was posted publicly, did not allow the text to be cut and pasted successfully into this format, so I retyped all of it and did not hyperlink. )

(Update Mon April 19, 2010, 8:25 pm see end of story)

(PA-06. It’s not the Onion.  It’s my in- law’s congressional district.  I live in CA. That way they can’t visit easily. )

Feb 18, 2010  Lower Merion School District Initial Response to Invasion of Privacy Allegation (yes, it says that right on their School’s webpage at www.lmsd.org  )  

Dear LMSD Community,

Last year, our school district became one of the first school systems in the United States to provide laptop computers to all high school students. This initiative has been well received and has provided educational benefits to our students. The District is dedicated to protecting and promoting student privacy.  The laptops do contain a security feature  intended to track lost, stolen, and missing laptops. This feature has been deactivated effective today.


We regret if this situation has caused any concern or inconvenience among our students and families. We are reviewing the matter and will provide an additional update as soon as information becomes available.


Dr. Christopher McGinley,


Internet Attack

Nothing says elite establishment American more than the name Rockefeller.  Here he is trying to sell you something that only ensures his kind stays atop the food chain.


Cyber threat in this case means you.  The threat of Americans learning and discovering and embracing the truth just might end their control over us.

Of interest to those monitoring the “Surveillance State”

OK campers (happy and/or otherwise),

10 points and a kewpie doll to anyone who can tell me what the following is a shadow of.

Big hint here.

And some bonus reading from Bruce Schneier’s blog.

Main Core, PROMIS and the Shadow Government (Pt.3)



With the long overdue departure of the Bush administration from the White House it is the hope of many that the myriad of transgressions against the Constitution and the people of America will begin to seep out into the public domain: it took a remarkably short time. The day after the helicopter hauled ole George away like so much rubbish a major story broke. In an astonishing shot across the bow directed at the shadow government the first significant whistleblower has already come out with a story (once again ignored by the corporate media) and delivered a devastating blow to the premise that the massive illegal domestic spying programs of the Bush administration were undertaken in order to protect America from terrorism in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001.

Main Core, PROMIS and the Shadow Government (Pt.2)

“In a very real and terrifying sense, our Government is the CIA and the Pentagon, with Congress reduced to a debating society. Of course, you can’t spot this trend to fascism by casually looking around. You can’t look for such familiar signs as the swastika, because they won’t be there. We won’t build Dachaus and Auschwitzes; the clever manipulation of the mass media is creating a concentration camp of the mind that promises to be far more effective in keeping the populace in line.”

-Earling Carothers ‘Jim’ Garrison

Where is the beef?

Something is missing beyond the spine of some Democrats in the rush to legalize warrantless wiretaps, end privacy, and reward corporations for betraying the public trust. Let’s call it the beef (or nicely textured soy protein for the vegetarians among us).

I am an empiricist at heart. I want proof in the form of sound evidence before I am willing to believe something is true. I am also deeply cynical and suspicious of politicians because too few decisions favor the common good. That cynicism has grown after our elected officials ‘misrepresented’ the threat posed by Iraq. In the uproar over the FISA revisions, now is a good time to point out there are some glaring gaps in the evidence at hand.  

Undermining the Premise of Eavesdropping

We like to think that our vote is the ultimate weapon of the people, but if the new rule is to get elected, raid the treasury and change the laws that hamper you, and then go away, then we are just voting in new thieves.

The FISA bill goes into compromise with Bush already promising his veto if the bill doesn’t include retroactive immunity for the telephone companies. Congress knows damn well the telco’s don’t need immunity because they should be able to produce an executive order for anything illegal they are accused of. If they can’t, then they should stand trial. Bush was willing to break the law in the first place because he saw the need as vital to national security, yet his willingness to suspend the same program over a provision in a bill pretty much destroys his claim of vital interest.

I want to show another way to shatter the claim that domestic spying is vital to national security, and point out the possible abuses that could happen if the apparatus is allowed to run without oversight.


The rule of law is mankind’s greatest triumph. It ensures that all actions and transactions are zero-sum endeavors. We agree on a value and trade if we are willing to pay the price. If we steal, or gain an unfair advantage in some other way, then justice puts up the capitol to balance the transaction. It forcibly extracts the balance from the perpetrator and charges interest. When an injustice is allowed to stand, the damage is greater than the original injustice. It undermines the system and fosters the notion of an entitled class that is above the law. Resentment is our internal justice system that works not by raising our own self worth, but by lowering the worth of the other class, seeding distrust and even hatred. Scooter Libby was within the arms of justice but was released by an entitled class that was above the law and let his roll in a dangerous and senseless crime against this country go unpunished. Joe Wilson, in my mind, would be justified in taking action against those that would place the life of his wife in danger.

The phone companies should be able to hold up a presidential order in court for any illegal act they perpetrated. I can understand that. What I can’t understand is not being able to find out if they followed the presidential order or went beyond it. Even more unbelievable is not being allowed total oversight over the scope of data mining and how that data is used in all cases. FISA was created by the abuse of the 4th amendment in the past. That abuse, as always, led to other abuses such as the burglary at Watergate.

The phone companies have a body of information so valuable that many specific laws have been enacted to safeguard it and the unfair advantage it creates if a privileged class has unfair access. It’s not just the possibility of being able to listen in on the content of a call; the telemetry of calling patterns is in itself of immense value and can be used for grossly unfair advantages.

Analyzing the calling patterns of an investment bank can greatly increase the chance of speculating correctly that a certain company might be in play for a takeover. Analyzing the calling patterns in and out of certain phones at the FBI or Justice department can be used as an early warning of an investigation. Congressional offices. Defense contractors. Law offices. Doctors offices. Local police. Party headquarters. Husbands/wives/paramours/competitors/personal enemies – all for the taking. All for sale. Unchecked.

Any and every time a telco complies with a request that is not public knowledge and might otherwise be illegal, the telco gains a bit too. They can begin to think of it as the norm and possible start helping themselves too because, after all, they can hold up examples for all the world to see if they felt pressured in any way. Leverage is a great way to unhinge justice.

The premise of the governments efforts to gather information is to thwart terrorism. They will use the argument that stopping even one attack makes it worth the violence being done to our liberties. That’s a false argument; more people die in car accidents than terrorist attacks, so why don’t they take our cars away too.

Even with low odds, if eavesdropping were certain to stop terrorism, then I might accept it with strict oversight. The fact is, it is unlikely a terrorist would communicate in the clear in a way that the automated collection apparatus would catch. Why talk openly when they can just post a picture of an ugly purple couch on Craigslist at an address in Walla Walla Washington as a signal to do something. The apparatus is useless to stop it.

Concentrating and analyzing the motherload of all data under the excuse of looking for terrorists is just an excuse. The power is too great to not abuse. The FBI has already admitting to abusing this information and has thoughtfully informed us that they are attempting to reduce the abuse. How will we know? We are not allowed full oversight.

Since congress very well might abdicate their responsibility to their constituents – us – then is there anything we the people can do for ourselves? It has to be done now because soon, it might be impossible to organize any kind of protest or action without the government being in on every detail.

One thought that I had would be to show how easy it is to undermine the premise of the system. If software was written to work on computers and cell phones that constantly emitted non-specific, non-localized, threatening-sounding, non-threats (can’t call it FOX News – already taken) then it would overwhelm the automated collection systems, causing them to flag billions of messages for review by human eyes every day. Harmless phrases such as “Flea bomb the white house at the end of the street,” might drive any system that is looking for terrorists crazy. Even worse would be to take specific sentences from Tom Clancy books and randomly emit them.

If any lawyers are reading this, do you know if voluntarily running such software would be illegal? What would be the government’s response in your estimation?

Unless that data is open to everyone, it should be open to no one. The government has not acknowledged any program of data mining. How can we know that? If they are not mining, then the program mentioned above should have no detrimental effect.

This in no way can be construed as sedition. I just want my 4th amendment rights honored. Since destroying the equipment that is listening to us is destruction of property, I wonder if there might not be another way around it by simply undermining the premise.

The Supreme Court did the right thing…

in rejecting ACLU vs. NSA today.

A number of good folks in the blogosphere are huffing and puffing over the Supreme Court’s rejection of the ACLU’s Petition for Certiori in the case of ACLU v. NSA.  They don’t need to.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today dismissed the first legal challenge to President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping order, but without ruling on any of the key issues.

It is traditional and expected in our Federal system that the Supreme Court wait until a controversial legal issue is litigated in more than one of the lower Circuits before creating a binding precedent.  This way, the Supreme Court both allows for a broader range of opinion and ensures that a greater number of arguments and issues are considered before the Court decides the final law.  

In ACLU vs. NSA, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had the first bite at the apple on unwarranted wiretapping, and spit out a Bushie worm. Yet the sour 6th is not the only Circuit with a say about whether our government can secretly spy on us.  

Telecom Immunity: It’s still about the spying

With FISA Deform again imminent, discussion has focused on telecom immunity, Senator Reid’s inexplicable refusal to honor Senator Dodd’s hold, and Senators Clinton, Obama and Biden following Senator Dodd’s lead, in at least attempting to filibuster. In purely electoral terms, this has been one more reason why it is too bad Senator Dodd’s candidacy likely won’t have any impact on the presidential campaign. It is also further proof that we need him to replace Senator Reid, as Majority Leader.

But the real story is still about domestic spying. The real story is still about the Bush Administration breaking a law that was specifically designed to stop abuses of government that had been going on for decades, but most egregiously by the Nixon Administration.

As mcjoan wrote:

The illegal activities of the telcos in aiding our government in domestic, warrantless spying extends far beyond 9/11 and preventing another terrorist attack on the U.S. Not that that was a valid justification for the government to overthrow the rule of law in the first place, but what a cynical effort by this administration to deceive.

Congress should not be voting on any amnesty for the telcos until full investigations of these new revelations have been conducted. The pending legislation on FISA, or at least this provision of it, should be shelved until Congress has a full picture of what these companies have been doing on behalf of our government.

Just so. It’s not only about shielding the telcos for having violated the trust of their customers, and possibly the law, it’s about preventing a full, fair accounting of what exactly the Bush Administration was doing, spying on the American people. The Constitution, the law, history, and the concept of individual privacy demand this accounting. That’s the real story, here.

Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Big Brother

Ain’t technology grand? I can sit here in China and zoom in on my son’s backyard in America with Google Earth.

Perhaps someday I will be able to watch my grandkids play in realtime.

The technology is here…now.  Our government uses it for National Security.  There is no doubt that it can (and probably has) serve our military well in Iraq and Afghanistan, our Intelligence community in many foreign lands and our scientists in tracking environmental information around the globe.

But what if someone wants to watch my grandkids running through the sprinkler in their underoos.


Watch you as you read this post?

Defining Privacy Down

Apparently, the problem we are all having with the FISA bill is a simple matter of semantics. We take the concept of privacy to mean privacy. How silly of us. As the Associated Press reports:

As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.

Trust us. We’re Big Brother. Public and private. We own you!

Kerr said at an October intelligence conference in San Antonio that he finds concerns that the government may be listening in odd when people are “perfectly willing for a green-card holder at an (Internet service provider) who may or may have not have been an illegal entrant to the United States to handle their data.”

See how stupid we are? If we’ll willingly allow immigrints to handle our private data, shouldn’t we be as willing to allow Big Brother? That’s actually an astonishing revelation of Kerr’s xenophobic bigotry: immigrants as the baseline of people who shouldn’t be trusted! Coming from one of this nation’s top intel officials!

Kerr also points out that since young people post private info to MySpace and Facebook, they really don’t care about privacy, anyway; and never mind that those who post to such websites actually choose what gets posted, and who sees it.  

“Those two generations younger than we are have a very different idea of what is essential privacy, what they would wish to protect about their lives and affairs. And so, it’s not for us to inflict one size fits all,” said Kerr, 68. “Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that.”

See, that, young people. You just don’t care about your privacy! Isn’t it nice that good Mr. Kerr is there to speak on your behalves? We also need to take another look at that second sentence:

“Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that.”

It particularly can’t be won when the principal deputy director of national intelligence is fighting against it!


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