Obama Administration's Backdoor Wiretap Bills Threaten Political and Privacy Rights

Tom Burghardt

Under the guise of "cybersecurity," the new all-purpose bogeyman to increase the secret state's already-formidable reach, the Obama administration and their congressional allies are crafting legislation that will open new backdoors for even more intrusive government surveillance: portals into our lives that will never be shut.

As Antifascist Calling has frequently warned, with the endless "War on Terror" as a backdrop the federal government, most notably the 16 agencies that comprise the so-called "Intelligence Community" (IC), have been constructing vast centralized databases that scoop-up and store all things digital--from financial and medical records to the totality of our electronic communications online--and do so without benefit of a warrant or probable cause.

The shredding of constitutional protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment, granted to the Executive Branch by congressional passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) after the 9/11 attacks, followed shortly thereafter by the oxymoronic USA Patriot Act set the stage for today's depredations.

Under provisions of multiple bills under consideration by the House and Senate, federal officials will be given broad authority over private networks that will almost certainly hand security officials wide latitude over what is euphemistically called "information-sharing" amongst corporate and government securocrats.


Protecting Us from Our Freedoms: Congress Set to Renew Patriot Act Spy Provisions

Tom Burghardt
Antifascist Calling

As night follows day, you can count on Congress to serve as loyal servants and willing accomplices of our out-of-control National Security State.

Last week, in another shameless demonstration of congressional "bipartisanship," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) forged a filthy backroom deal that reauthorizes insidious surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act for an additional four years.

"Like clockwork," the ACLU reports, Reid and McConnell "introduced a bill, S. 1038, that will extend the provisions until June 1, 2015." As of this writing, the text of that measure has yet to be published.

And, like a faint echo from the past when the Patriot Act was signed into law nearly a decade ago in the wake of the 9/11 provocation and the anthrax attacks, the ACLU tells us that "the Senate begins its debate on Monday with votes possible that same night."

But why not forego a vote altogether. After all, with the White House "skipping a legal deadline to seek congressional authorization of the military action in Libya" under the War Powers Act, "few on the Hill are objecting," the Associated Press reports.

Why not extend congressional "courtesy" to the White House over demands that their illegal spying on Americans continue indefinitely "as long as consultations with Congress continue"?

Consensus by congressional Democrats and Republicans over extending the provisions, the World Socialist Web Site reports, "meets the demands of the Obama administration and the Justice Department for a 'clean' extension, that is, one that does not make any concessions to concerns over the infringement of civil liberties, particularly in relation to the authorization to seize the records of libraries and other institutions."

"The idea," the Associated Press informs us, "is to pass the extension with as little debate as possible to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government." (emphasis added)

While most of the surveillance powers handed the security apparat were permanent, three controversial provisions had expiration dates attached to the law due to the potential for serious civil rights abuses. Such suspicions were certainly warranted as dozens of reports by Congress and the Justice Department, media investigations and Freedom of Information Act and other lawsuits subsequently disclosed.


No Place to Hide: Internet Tracking Probe Unveiled as New Smartphone Spy Scandal Unwinds

Tom Burghardt
Antifascist Calling

As the United States morphs into a failed state, one unwilling and soon perhaps, unable, to provide for the common good even as it hands over trillions of dollars to a gang of financial brigands engorged like parasitic ticks on the wealth of others, keeping the lid on is more than just an imperial obsession: it's big business.

Earlier this month, New Scientist reported that "a new way of working out where you are by looking at your internet connection could pin down your current location to within a few hundred metres."

Although similar techniques are already in use, they are not very accurate in terms of closing the surveillance trap. "Every computer connected to the web has an internet protocol (IP) address, but there is no simple way to map this to a physical location," reporter Jacob Aron informs us. "The current best system can be out by as much as 35 kilometres."

However, Yong Wang, "a computer scientist at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu, and colleagues at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, have used businesses and universities as landmarks to achieve much higher accuracy."

According to New Scientist, "Wang's team used Google Maps to find both the web and physical addresses of such organisations, providing them with around 76,000 landmarks. By comparison, most other geolocation methods only use a few hundred landmarks specifically set up for the purpose."

With geolocation tracking devices embedded in smartphones (and, as we'll see below, this data is stored without their users' consent), all of which is happily turned over to authorities by telecoms (for the right price, of course!), as privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian revealed in 2009, it becomes abundantly clear that sooner than most people think they'll be no escaping Big Brother's electronic dragnet.


American Police State: FBI Abuses Reveals Contempt for Political Rights, Civil Liberties

Tom Burghardt
Antifascist Calling...

As mass revolt spreads across Egypt and the Middle East and citizens there demand jobs, civil liberties and an end to police state abuses from repressive, U.S.-backed torture regimes, the Obama administration and their congressional allies aim to expand one right here at home.

Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released an explosive new report documenting the lawless, constitutional-free zone under construction in America for nearly a decade.

That report, "Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001-2008," reveals that the domestic political intelligence apparat spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, continues to systematically violate the rights of American citizens and legal residents.

A rather ironic state of affairs considering the free passes handed out by U.S. securocrats to actual terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11, as both WikiLeaks and FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds disclosed last week.

Although illegal practices and violations were reported by the FBI to the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) after an unexplained two-and-a-half-year delay, a further violation of lawful guidelines, lawbreaking continued unabated; in fact, it accelerated as the Bureau was given a green light to do so by successive U.S. administrations.

The IOB is a largely toothless body created in 1976 by the Ford administration in the wake of disclosures of widespread spying and infiltration of political groups by America's secret state agencies during the sixties and seventies.

Reeling from revelations uncovered by Congress, investigative journalists and citizen activists in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Ford's caretaker government was forced to call a halt to the more egregious practices employed by the FBI to keep the lid on and crafted guidelines governing intelligence and surveillance operations.


Ghost in the Machine: Secret State Teams Up with Ad Pimps to Throttle Privacy

Tom Burghardt
Antifascist Calling

The secret world of "cyber situational awareness" is a spymaster's wet dream, made all the more alluring by the advent of ultra high speed computing and the near infinite storage capacity afforded by massive server farms and the ubiquitous "cloud."

Within that dusky haze, obscured by claims of national security or proprietary business information, take your pick, would you bet your life that the wizards of misdirection and deception care a whit that you really are more than a disembodied data point?

Lost in the debate surrounding privacy invasion and data mining however, is the key role that internet service providers (ISPs) play as intermediaries and gatekeepers. From their perch, ISPs peer deeply into and collect and analyze the online communications of tens of millions of users simultaneously, in real-time.

Concerted efforts to eliminate online anonymity, in managed democracies and authoritarian regimes alike, are greatly enhanced by the deployment of deep packet inspection (DPI) sensors and software on virtually all networks.

As Canadian privacy watchdogs DeepPacketInspection.ca tell us, DPI offer ISPs

"unparalleled levels of intelligence into subscribers' online activities."

"To unpack this a little" they aver, "all data traffic that courses across the 'net is contained in individual packets that have header (i.e. addressing) information and payload (i.e. content) information. We can think of this as the address on a postcard and the written and visual content of a postcard."

All of which is there for the taking, "criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial," Cryptohippie chillingly informs.


Crypto Wars! Obama Wants New Law to Wiretap the Internet

Tom Burghardt
Antifascist Calling

"Apparently the American people, long the targets of illegal driftnet spying by the intelligence and security apparatus, will soon find another door slammed shut, even as the administration claims sweeping new powers, including the right to assassinate American citizens deemed "terrorists," in secret and without due process, anywhere on the planet. And they call this transparency..."

In a reprise of the crypto wars of the 1990s, the U.S. secret state is mounting an offensive that would force telecommunication companies to redesign their systems and information networks to more easily facilitate internet spying.

Touted as a simple technical "fix" that would "modernize" existing legislation for wiretaps, government security officials will demand that telecommunication firms and internet service providers provide law enforcement with backdoors that would enable them to bypass built-in encryption and security features of electronic communications.

With the Obama administration rivaling, even surpassing antidemocratic moves by the Bush regime to monitor and surveil the private communications of the American people, The New York Times reported last week that "federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet."


Beyond Orwell: The Electronic Police State, 2010

Tom Burghardt
Antifascist Calling

A truism perhaps, but before resorting to brute force and open repression to halt the "barbarians at the gates," that would be us, the masters of declining empires (and the chattering classes who polish their boots) regale us with tales of "democracy on the march," "hope" and other banalities before the mailed fist comes crashing down.

Putting it another way, as the late, great Situationist malcontent, Guy Debord did decades ago in his relentless call for revolt, The Society of the Spectacle:

"The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender 'lonely crowds.' With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its own presuppositions."

And when those "presuppositions" reproduce ever-more wretched clichés promulgated by true believers or rank opportunists, take your pick, market "democracy," the "freedom to choose" (the length of one's chains), or even quaint notions of national "sovereignty" (a sure fire way to get, and keep, the masses at each others' throats!) we're left with a fraud, a gigantic swindle, a "postmodern" refinement of tried and true methods that would do Orwell proud!

Ponder Debord's rigorous theorem and substitute "cell phone" and "GPS" for "automobile," and "Internet" for "television" and you're soon left with the nauseating sense that the old "infobahn" isn't all its cracked up to be. As a seamless means for effecting control on the other hand, of our thoughts, our actions, even our whereabouts; well, that's another story entirely!


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