For years, AMERICAN FREE PRESS has been ahead of the curve in regard to the surveillance state that’s been in existence under the Bush and Obama administrations.
Whether exposing the Echelon global intercept program following 9-11 or covering NSA whistle-blowers such as Thomas Drake, this publication has issued a constant warning: you’re being watched. Once dismissed as mere “conspiracy theory,” AFP’s steady coverage on this issue has now been proven true.
By Victor Thorn
On June 6, revelations arose that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been utilizing a secretive snooping program named PRISM since 2007 to pry into American’s e-mails, credit card usage, phone calls, Internet web searches and social media chats. Not only did the NSA burrow directly into information collected by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Skype, Apple and YouTube, they also accessed records of at least one phone company, Verizon.
With a $75.4B intelligence budget at their disposal, the United States government employs over 850,000 federal and private employees to engage in the collection and retention of data on average Americans. Can anyone believe today that their private lives are still actually private? The government is out of control when it comes to snooping on Americans.
Just look at the following examples:
• On June 10, Internal Revenue Service officials revealed that the tax-collecting agency intends to purchase hundreds of mini-cameras, which could be planted in radios, houseplants or kitchen gadgets for the purpose of investigating taxpayers.
• The U.S. Postal Service is now in possession of ultramodern, high-speed computer systems that can photograph and track every piece of mail.
• Even at the 2013 Bilderberg conference, data collection was a hot topic. Former Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus reportedly hosted a seminar on cyber-snooping.
The latest government leaks by former NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden show just how advanced government eavesdropping is today.
As such, it came as no surprise that on June 6, The Washington Post’s Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras reported, “PRISM has been described by NSA officials as the most prolific contributor to the president’s daily briefing and [his] leading source of raw material.”
During a June 11 interview, AFP asked Anthony Kimery, online editor of Homeland Security magazine, to describe the PRISM collection process.
“Analysts at NSA go into the PRISM database,” Kimery explained, “and with an ISP numerical code, phone number or an e-mail address they can pull up every individual you’ve contacted via that data. From there, the NSA can expand out exponentially to link with any other e-mail or social media communications.”
Now infamous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden conveyed the extent of this surveillance to The Washington Post, telling reporters: “They quite literally can watch your ideas as you type.”
And if that’s not bad enough, the NSA continues to grow its abilities by building a one-million square foot complex in Bluffdale, Utah, that is five times larger than the U.S. Congress building and will be able to store unprecedented amounts of information.
To allay fears, President Barack Obama tried to assure Americans that NSA officials weren’t listening to phone calls or reading emails. Yet, six months ago on January 6, NSA whistleblower William Binney told reporter Jason Howerton, “[The government’s] statement about ‘we don’t have content’ is an outright lie.” Binney estimates that the NSA records a staggering 3 billion phone calls every day.
Disturbed by Obama’s hypocrisy on this issue, the New York Times editorial board originally wrote on June 6, “The administration has now lost all credibility. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.” [The Times later altered this editorial to soften its tone]
Kimery offered a similar fear. “There are approximately 1.5 million people with security clearances that have access to classified information. With the Obama administration abusing its authority, vis-à-vis the IRS, there’s always a possibility that someone could use this data for political purposes and create an enemies list.”
During his groundbreaking interview with the Post, Snowden provided a motive for coming in from the cold. “It was a slow realization that presidents could openly lie to secure the office and then break public promises without consequences.”
Moving this situation ahead even further, Snowden—who, curiously enough, worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a subsidiary of infamous neocon defense contractor The Carlyle Group—told The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald on June 9, “The NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America . . . we collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.”
When asked if everyday people could guard themselves from these intrusions, Snowden answered, “The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.”
Congress: In Collusion or in the Dark?
Under a barrage of criticism regarding NSA spy programs, Barack Obama was quick to reply that Congress has not only been briefed and fully apprised on these matters, they also authorized them. Still, regardless of 22 separate NSA meetings with lawmakers, most representatives on Capitol Hill have claimed ignorance of the NSA dragnet.
Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) complained, “I’m not aware of the program that was revealed. It’s a fiction that everybody in Congress knew.”
Likewise, Senator John Thune, (R-SD) surmised that he didn’t believe “most members of Congress going into this were fully aware of how broad the [PRISM] program was.”
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), author of George Bush’s Patriot Act, stated that PRISM reached far beyond what they intended. “Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”
Enflaming this situation, on March 12, National Intelligence Director James Clapper overtly perjured himself under oath before a congressional committee when he vowed that the NSA hadn’t engaged in the collection of any type of data on millions of Americans. Later, Clapper admitted his lies on June 8 to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell by saying, “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner.”
On the other hand, hypocrisy ran rampant in Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) initially opposed warrantless surveillance under the Bush regime, calling it a “Roveian strategy” intended to scare people about al-Qaeda. But now under the Obama regime, Franken has flip-flopped.
“I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people,” Franken proclaimed. “I have a high level of confidence that it is used to protect us, and I know that it’s been successful in preventing terrorism.”
Feds Have Ability to Spy on All of Us Without Warrants
• As part of U.S. “war on terror,” NSA wants backdoors built into all popular computer systems
When NSA Director General Keith Alexander appeared before Congress on June 12, none of the lawmakers asked him about an October 2012 report entitled Presidential Policy Directive 20 which listed a number of cyber-warfare targets aimed at foreign countries. Ironically, Alexander is the man in charge of Obama’s Cyber Command Unit.
The Internet’s warring capabilities are best illustrated by the joint U.S.-Israeli sabotage of Iranian nuclear facilities by Stuxnet computer worms in 2009-2010. Once the NSA scandal broke, the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer commented on June 6, “The NSA is part of the military . . . this is an unprecedented militarization of our domestic communications infrastructure.”
During a June 11 interview, AFP spoke with Rich Mogull, analyst and CEO of Securosis, a company specializing in information security. Speaking of Stuxnet, Mogull said, “Because this information was leaked and attributed to the U.S., it’s really complicated things.”
Beyond the potential for cyber-warfare, Mogull mentioned another smoking gun. “There’s a program called CALEA that’s being advocated by the Deptartment of Justice and U.S. law enforcement. Basically, they want laws to mandate back-doors placed in everything produced by Google, Microsoft and Facebook. That way, they’d never need warrants to look inside someone’s computer.”
“CALEA is already in phone equipment sold throughout the world, and other governments want to make wiretapping and snooping part of their Internet.”
Obviously, these technological advances increase the likelihood of offensive militarized attacks in cyberspace.
As Mogull warned, “Governments will push to the absolute limit what’s legal at this point. As a society, are we comfortable with them crossing this line? Once companies have the capability to retain this information, it will never go away.”
Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 40 books.