Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Guilt By 'Association' (or guilty thanks to an idiot who misdialed your house)

Who says 'liberal' democrats and 'conservative' republicans can't find common ground? They always find themselves on the same page when it comes to screwing the public:

If watching or listening to these jackballs causes you intestinal problems, I've been kind enough to provide a transcript of the video for you to read below:

"It is lawful (claims the great Constitutional scholar, Diane Feinstein). It has been briefed to congress (so rest easy, folks). This is just meta-data. There is no content involved - in other words, no content of a communication.... The records can only be accessed under heightened standards. The information goes into a database - the meta data - but cannot be accessed without what's called, and I quote: 'reasonable articulable suspicion' (articulable?) that the records are relevant and relatable to terroristic activity'. Terrorists will come after us if they can (no shit. You and yours are doing a mighty fine job of it) and the only thing that we have to deter this is good intelligence to understand that a plot is being hatched and to get there before they get to us (they've already got to us, and they look quite a bit like Diane herself). 

Then here's ol' Saxby Chambliss his very self, telling the commoners what's goin' down: "It is simply what we call, meta-data that is, uh, never utilized by any governmental agency unless they have - they go back to the FISA court and they show that there is real cause as to why something within the meta-data should be looked at. So, that's a - I think - a, been very clear all along through the years of this program it has proved meritorious  because we have gathered significant information on Bad Guys - but only on Bad Guys over the years." These are some damn good computers we've bought our servants. They work so well they initially distinguish between who is good and who is bad (a computerized Santa Claus of sorts) so they know enough to refrain from collecting info on us good guys. And to think my computer still crashes once or twice a day and it can't even keep pop-up ads at bay... 

It's always enlightening to hear from old crows like Chambliss and Feinstein who generously take the time to explain to the citizens all about 'meta-data' and the 'heightened standards' of the secret court. I now feel terrific. 

And what of that old DC hack James Clapper? A noted zionist, a noted warmonger, a noted liar (to paraphrase, 'That damn Saddam moved all the WMD's out'a Iraq to Syria just before we got there - that's why there was no WMD's found'), Clapper was questioned just two months ago by Oregon's senator Ron Wyden (no hero here or anywhere else, though I'm certain he'll milk this for all it's worth) and 'The Clap' as he's affectionately known around DC's VD clinics and underground whorehouses (I'm just pulling your leg, Mr. Clapper, sir) again obstructed by not telling the truth: (I include a transcript of the noted section of the video below so you don't have to sit thru all seven minutes)

Wyden: 'Last summer the NSA director was at a conference and he was asked a question about the NSA's surveillance of Americans. He replied, and I quote here, ''The story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people is completely false". The reason I'm asking the question is having served on the committee now for a dozen years, I don't really know what a 'dossier' is in this context.  So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a a yes or no answer to the question:  Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?' 
Clapper: 'No, Sir.'
 Wyden: 'It does not?'
Clapper: 'Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, ah, collect, but not wittingly.'

So, nothing to worry about here. Both dems and repubs are united to save us from terror and the Clap likely accidentally misspoke (he looked as if he was ill at the time, so that's likely a contributing factor as well). 

Does it matter, then, that our servants in DC freely collect these phone-trees on people? I mean, I have no problem with agents of the State entering my home and searching thru my possessions because I'm a good guy with nothing to hide. Wanna frisk me and ID me when I walk down the street? Great! And, like all enlightened Americans,  I'm frightened by them Muslim terr'ists. So does it really matter if everyone who's ever called me and anyone I've ever called is recorded in some government computer somewhere?

Well yes, yes it does matter. Even for a chickenshit who's afraid of Muslims and trusts his own government and claims his privacy can be breached because he 'has nothing to hide'. 

Christopher Simpson (CS), author of Blowback and professor of Communications at American University in D.C. had this to say on KPFA's Flashpoints with Dennis Bernstein (DB) yesterday (if so inclined you can listen to the show here, otherwise I provided a transcript of the relevant portions below): 

DB: You said today the newly public NSA records about PRISM and similar operations demonstrate that the meta-data about electronic communications is actually more dangerous to democracy than intercepting phone conversations. We know that senator Feinstein here in California assured us that opposite was the case - that it's not bad because they're not recording phone conversations. Could you please explain?

CS: Let's take the simplest possible approach to this and assume that the basic description that the NSA itself and the president himself have given of what's being recorded are true. So... the signal data, which is to say the 'to' number, the 'from' number, the amount of time online, the particular channels it has traveled through and so on, that's what's being captured. There's several problems with this claim. First of all, the way in which that data is searched is done through a process of data-mining and it selects pieces of this technical data that analysts think might be related to terrorism. And that's what gets captured. So let me give you a scenario here:

Suppose they have a suspect 'A' that they think is a bad person, is involved in espionage and terrorism or some other offense against the State. What they do is they go and get all of A's records. And that second round of contacts of A become a new round of suspects, suspects 'B'. And then they look at these records, all the different B's and then they get another round, the 'C's, and so on down the line. Okay, this is done at the speed of light, it is done mathematically, it's essentially the same - it isn't the same algorithm as Google, but it's essentially the same process by which Google can return and claims to have searched literally millions - sometimes tens of millions of records in a second or two. Those records are then cross-referenced so to speak to see if there are additional linkages either with the subject A or among the B's or among the C's or to see if there are loop-backs between the C's and A's. Do you follow me here?

DB: Oh, well I do follow you and where I follow you is to the implication that this will get a whole lot of people in trouble who never did anything.

CS: That's exactly right.

DB: Could you talk about the dangers here?

CS: Yes. The danger is that each of these search 'probes' - they never disappear. So if you turn up, for example, as a subject 'B' in connection with the original 'A' suspect it is noted even if there's no other information that you have any association with subject A. Subject A may have been calling the pizza parlor, he might be calling his brother-in-law, he might be calling anybody and nevertheless that gets captured as somebody who's associated with subject A, the suspected 'bad guy'. So to out through the C's and so forth and so on. The black marks are not lost. Those probes which continue 24-7, 365 days a year are, as the same numbers and contacts show up in relationship to various other suspects and even non-suspects - the (phone) numbers that are showing up become more suspects so that what happens is literally the creation of a network where no actual network exists. A creation of a network of people who are supposedly linked to each other through their telephone communications but who in fact who in fact have no relationship to each other. And the reason this is more dangerous than telephone conversations is that at least in the old days if you intercepted a telephone conversation and somebody was talking to Aunt May and wishing her a happy birthday or something of that sort then presumably an analyst would say 'no, aunt may might be involved but this phone call doesn't prove it'. 

So what is happening here is a very important legal transformation from identifying somebody with some kind of substantial cause who may be complicit in a crime to assuming that the people who have been contacted for any reason whatsoever have a degree of guilt associated with them whether or not in fact they do. It is the algorithm's work to attribute responsibility to the contacts rather than to identify specific acts that may or may not be legal or compromising. 

There's another layer to this, too, and that has to do with how suspect A gets identified in the first place. Now, I live in the National Capital area and there are at least five different people who share my name and live within this same (area). And I get calls quite regularly for other people named Chris Simpson. What that means is I'm in touch with people who either they get nailed for talking to me, or I get nailed for talking to them when in fact the whole interaction was based on misinformation that I was the same person they were actually trying to call. Another example: how often do you get junk mail at your house addressed to someone else? That happens because people in the US move all the time, on average once every five years. That means there's all these addresses out there on computer lists with the wrong information about your house. When these types of searches are done for suspected terrorists, they draw... on all sorts of public records - Facebook, Twitter, social media, you name it, that's gathered. So what that means is, at about the same rate you get mail that's not addressed to you your name is being associated with something you had nothing to do with. That's a serious problem with the reliability of the records that are used to compile dossiers on the suspects. The problem now is that there's no way to know whether you have been pinged in this fashion, no way to inspect your file and correct it, and equally important there's no way for the government that claims to know everything and treating people so fairly to know and correct everything they've got wrong.

DB: So that means if you get stuck in this sort of nightmare you wouldn't know where to begin to clear your name. 

CS: Yes, that's exactly right. And you wouldn't necessarily even know your name had been pinged. So what are the results of that? Well, increased attention as far as your use of your passport. Or any type of crossing borders. We have clear examples from the case of the man accused of spreading germs in the wake of 9/11. And the FBI was after him for years, harassing him day after day, and other cases of that sort.... the way investigative agencies work, and this is well known, not some big secret, is that they settle in on a target and they build a case about that person. Some agencies are more honest, some less; some police are more honest, some less honest, but the point is that's how the policing process works. A role of the courts, supposedly, is to protect citizens from that. But in the online intelligence collecting business, these associations are generated automatically by  algorithm at the speed of light with no accountability for who gets sucked up in these lists and who does not. 

DB: What can we say about those who have been the stewards of these programs? Have they been lying to the American people? How come we don't know more about this and didn't know more sooner?

CS: KPFA listeners are probably aware of this, in all honesty. But in terms of the mainstream media this is a big revelation. I think one of the modern revelations was that there were actual papers - including an order from a secret court - that established or continued these types of operations. That was a breakthrough. But in point of fact there have been whistle-blowers going back at least to the Bush administration who have brought the basics of this system to light... so it is possible to take the known information about the NSA and compare it to what's basic to data mining and get a reasonably clear picture of how this goes on.

Not long ago... a Senator from Oregon (Wyden in video above) asked very directly to the director of Central Intelligence, James Clapper, the gist of it was: 'Are there any programs in which the intelligence community gathers data about millions of Americans?' and, paraphrasing, Clapper said: 'No. Well wait. Excuse me - we might do it inadvertently sometimes but on purpose, No.' 
Well that's very clear - some people would call it dissembling, some lying, but in any case it is clearly false. You get the same type of falsehood  and in many case misunderstanding even from political figures such as Pelosi and so forth who confuse different aspects of these programs with one another, who make claims about being briefed but who based on their comments don't understand what they were briefed on.... so we have a real problem here - not only are these powerful secret programs that are themselves unaccountable, and the people who are held up as being accountable such as the Congressional Intelligence Committee either don't understand or are not telling the truth about what they've been told about these programs. There's a situation where there's no recourse, where there's no probable cause for the collection of this information about Americans or for that matter anybody else, and there's no way to identify errors... and when people have sued these agencies to get information about themselves the cases have been tossed out of court when the government claims 'State Secrets' and tells the courts 'go away - don't interfere in this matter' so the courts don't have jurisdiction either, or in the past, they've been easily deflected from exercising jurisdiction.

DB: Step back and reflect on the implications on the level of spying and government interference that are taking place now.

CS: Well, two things. One thing is it is not surprising that people who feel vulnerable to these sorts of programs - ordinary people - will shy away from political activity and political involvement. Why? Well you know maybe they have kids, a job, they're worried about their job, so forth and so on they just don't want to get involved. That's what's called a Chilling Effect. And it is very dangerous... Now's exactly the time to stand up and be noisy, frankly,  about how these programs operate. To make clear this IS a 4th Amendment issue, contrary to what Senator Pelosi has to say, and that it is important that people's right to privacy is respected. 

There's one other aspect of this. Frequently you hear, even Obama said this recently, you can have security or privacy, but not both - I'm paraphrasing - that is a basic misunderstanding and a misleading way to frame the question. In a democracy privacy means the right to be left alone by the State. It means at least that - many believe it means much more, but let's start with that basic idea: to be left alone by the state... what's being institutionalized here is a surveillance system that is so pervasive that there's no such thing as being left alone by the State if you are abiding by the law.... it's a form of intrusion into people's lives that is different than what we read about in books like 1984, Brave New World, cyber-punk fiction, that sort of thing. It's different from that. But it's more pervasive and more pernicious. 

And there you have it. Despite Feinstein's and Chambliss's claims to the contrary, this surveillance is more detrimental to your freedom than simply listening in to what you say on the phone. 

This is all about Guilt by Association. 

Since yesterday I'm becoming convinced that Edward Snowden's role was to make this public. One thing about this sick cabal, they always let the people know what they're up to. They let the truth escape and then massage the details and of course the message. I'm thinking they wish to see if the American public will finally show a spine and make it known that the ones who need to submit to total surveillance are the ones who 'serve' us in D.C. 

That's already looking like wishful thinking on my part, however. According to a Pew Poll, republicans are cool with the government snooping as long as a republican is prez. Democrats of course, don't like it is Bush is doing it but seem relaxed so long as a dem is camped out in the WH. 

Will my fellow Americans ever wake the hell up?

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